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Robbie Lawler says Ben Askren wasn’t close to choking him out, rematch a possibility

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Robbie Lawler is certain that his latest fight was ended prematurely. And he’s just as certain that he doesn’t want to raise a stink about it.

Competing for the first time since December 2017, Lawler had the honor of welcoming former Bellator and ONE Championship welterweight titleholder Ben Askren to the Octagon on Saturday at UFC 235 in Las Vegas. Lawler, a former UFC champion himself, looked to be in vintage form, countering Askren’s highly vaunted wrestling with a fantastic slam of his own and nearly punching Askren out in round one.

Askren was able to recover and he worked hard to tie Lawler up, resulting in a scramble that saw Askren put Lawler into a bulldog choke. It was unclear how much danger Lawler was actually in, but referee Herb Dean stepped into check and apparently decided that Lawler was out. Lawler shot up and immediately protested the stoppage, though he was mostly calm as he conversed with Dean.

At the evening’s post-fight press conference, Lawler was asked how he felt about Dean’s call and he remained professional.

“Shit happens in there,” Lawler said. “Sometimes there’s mistakes being made. Herb checked on me and when he checked on me I gave him a thumbs up and he came in there. I couldn’t hear him talking because of how the choke was on. My head was on [Askren’s] body on this side and his arm was over here, so I couldn’t hear him talking. And I’m not gonna just dangle a hand there, so I just put it down and when he checked I gave him the thumbs up and looked right at him I was like, ‘Hey man. F*ck. I’m good.’

“It happens. He’s a hell of a ref, he just made mistake.”

Making the finish even more controversial was the fact that prior to the choke Lawler appeared to be on his way to a knockout victory after landing several unanswered punches. However, he said he needed to re-watch the fight before commenting on whether Dean should have stopped it earlier and he credited Askren with battling back.

One aspect of Askren’s performance that Lawler didn’t find convincing was the technique he used to finish. While some angles appeared to show that Lawler may have gone limp for a brief moment, according to him the hold was nowhere close to putting him away.

“I wasn’t choking because I was actually thinking I could just pick him up and slam him,” Lawler said. “But he was squeezing so damn hard it was like, just let him burn out his arms. At least that’s what it felt like to me, I don’t know how it looked on TV, but it felt like he was just wasting energy squeezing me when I wasn’t gonna choke so I just sat there and I guess I should have done the thumbs up a little earlier or something.”

Lawler didn’t sound thrilled about the idea of appealing the result (“I’m not one to whine about shit,” he said), a decision that he plans to leave in the hands of his management. He also trusts them to talk to UFC president Dana White about whether an immediate rematch with Askren makes sense, though he is open to the idea.

“You know I don’t make excuses,” Lawler said. “I just kind of roll with the punches and try to be positive about the whole situation. I’d like to run it back. It is what it is. I just don’t like making excuses even if shit doesn’t — if stuff like that happens, whatever.”