Askren ultimately defeated Lawler via first-round stoppage in a wild back-and-forth affair earlier this month at UFC 235. The fight attracted plenty of controversy, though, as referee Herb Dean drew criticism for halting the contest a little more than three minutes into the opening round when Askren had Lawler caught in a tight bulldog choke.
Believing Lawler to be unconscious, Dean called a stop to the bout via technical submission despite Lawler flashing a thumbs up sign moments earlier. Lawler immediately rocketed to his feet to protest the stoppage and has since stated his desire for a rematch.
Covington was seated cageside in Las Vegas for Askren’s debut and had a brief exchange with “Funky” backstage at UFC 235. And safe to say, Covington was not impressed by what he saw from the undefeated Olympian’s long-awaited UFC welcome.
“How could you be impressed?” Covington told MMA Fighting. “Ben Askren, he got dropped on his head. Let’s be honest, he should give his Hodge Trophy, that wrestling trophy, to Robbie Lawler, because Robbie Lawler took him down more times than he took Robbie down. And if it wasn’t for Herb Dean saving his life, he was going to get his head knocked into the first row. So the guy needs to run that back with Robbie Lawler and actually get a UFC win before he can start talking about the top of the mountain.
“He hasn’t done anything in this sport. He’s a 36-year-old virgin. A little science school nerd. So I don’t really have anything to say. He’s a bum. He can’t even throw a punch.”
Covington, the former interim UFC welterweight champion, is expected to challenge Kamaru Usman for the title sometime this summer. UFC president Dana White has repeatedly said the next shot at the 170-pound strap will belong to Covington.
Askren’s next step, on the other hand, is still up in the air. “Funky” hoped to battle Darren Till if the Englishman got past Jorge Masvidal at UFC London, however Masvidal’s second-round knockout win dashed those hopes. Askren expressed subsequent interest in a fight against Masvidal after UFC London. The one matchup he has been unenthusiastic about, however, is a rematch against Lawler, which White called for in the aftermath of UFC 235.
And that, to Covington, is telling.
“It shows how scared he is, how much fear is in him,” Covington said. “The fact that you don’t want to run that back and prove to the fans and prove to the people that run this sport that you’re better than that guy. It was a fluke. You didn’t win that fight. Robbie was still in it. [Askren] was gassed within the first two minutes of the fight. Gassed out. Like, didn’t know what to do, literally concussed on day street.
“So if you don’t want to run that back, then what are you doing here? You’re not out here to prove that you’re the best. You’re just trying to look for easy matchups and he’s just looking for that good payday and then he’s going to ride off into the sunset, because he’s a 36-year-old virgin. He’s got probably a year or two left of fighting in him. I don’t know if he’ll crack the top five by the time he’s 40. Just being honest.”