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Ben Askren: ‘Arena would’ve booed me out of the place’ if I fought like Kamaru Usman at UFC 235

Ben Askren was not impressed by Kamaru Usman’s performance at UFC 235.

Askren, the former Bellator and ONE Championship titleholder who made his successful Octagon debut against Robbie Lawler on Saturday’s pay-per-view card, tweeted that Usman “fought like a b*tch” following the native Nigerian’s dominant championship victory over Tyron Woodley in UFC 235’s co-main event. Askren, a teammate of Woodley’s, then elaborated on his comments at the event’s post-fight press conference, criticizing Usman for a performance that he felt was short on action and heavy on stall tactics.

“Man, if I would’ve fought like that, the arena would’ve booed me out of the place,” Askren said Saturday night. “I mean, how many times did they get broken up because of a lack of action? And obviously on Tyron’s end, as a competitor, Tyron needs to let his hands go and get it going. But as far as Marty’s concerned, he was just pushing him into the cage, pushing him into the cage. When he was on top, he wasn’t really doing much — and that’s something I’ve gotten criticized excessively for in my career and I’ve never held anyone against the cage for a while.

“So yeah, I didn’t really like that. Obviously I understand there’s some bias involved.”

Askren defeated Lawler via controversial first-round stoppage in his long-awaited UFC debut, scoring a technical submission via bulldog choke after referee Herb Dean deemed Lawler to be unconscious. The former UFC welterweight champion immediately protested the call, but ultimately Dean’s decision stood and Askren was ruled the victor.

Askren then planned to hurry back into the locker room and help corner Woodley for his title defense against Usman — however that plan never came to fruition, and Askren wasn’t pleased.

“I was really disappointed with the UFC staff,” Askren said. “I thought I had it cleared on Tuesday that as soon as I got done with my fight, that I would go out to the cage [to corner Woodley]. They said no problem. And then I tried going out there and they stopped me. They wouldn’t even let me go in the arena, and I was really disappointed by that. I mean, if you don’t want to let me in the corner, fine, but find an effing seat for me somewhere a couple rows back where I can watch one of my best friends perform.

“I was really disappointed by that fact because I thought the issue was handled ahead of time and I didn’t foresee that becoming an issue, so I rushed back, I skipped stitches so I could go out there with them, and then they stopped me. And I really didn’t like that.

“I understand there’s rules and stuff here,” Askren added, “but I thought I did my due diligence in taking care of that.”

Woodley ended up getting shut out in the contest, succumbing to Usman’s forward pressure and tenacious wrestling abilities in a frustrating affair for the Roufusport team. And Askren simply wishes he would’ve been given the chance to support his longtime friend and perhaps offer a few words of advice that may have helped turn the tide in the fight.

“You never know,” Askren said. “I coach a lot of kids, right? My brother and I own three wrestling academies and you just never know — sometimes it’s not always me, but what someone’s going to say that’s going to make something click.

“Tyron’s main weakness, which, it showed tonight, is his need for perfection. Right? He kept looking for that perfect punch, that perfect punch, and Marty just kept pressing forward and pressing forward, and the perfect punch didn’t come. But at some point you’ve just got to let it go. So I know if I’m in the corner, that’s what I’m going to say: ‘Tyron, let your hands go, punch him in the face. It’s not that hard, hit him.’ And that’s what I would’ve been saying to him over and over and over again.

“Would that have made a difference? I’m not sure, but I would’ve liked to have that opportunity. And like I said, I felt like I did my due diligence earlier in the week to take care of it, and I guess next time I’ll be more prepared.”

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