Ben Askren will need a phone call with his longtime friend before answering a call out from one of MMA’s most powerful managers.
On Sunday, Ali Abdelaziz, manager of new UFC welterweight champion Kamaru Usman, tweeted an insinuation Sunday that Askren should be Usman’s first title defense. Usman defeated Tyron Woodley to win the title at UFC 235 on Saturday night in Las Vegas.
Colby Covington, the former UFC interim welterweight champion, seemed like a shoo-in after that bout to be next up. But that was before Usman and Abdelaziz got into a scuffle with Covington at a Las Vegas casino Sunday.
Askren (19-0, 1 NC), of course, would like to fight for a UFC title. The issue is that he and Woodley are longtime close friends and training partners. And Woodley is eyeing a rematch — if not right away, in the near future — against Usman for the belt.
“I thought Colby and Marty was announced [Saturday] night,” Askren said, calling Usman by his old “Marty” nickname. “Look, listen, if Colby gets screwed again, I’ve got no issue with that. Colby is a jabronie. This was a path that I haven’t even gone down, because I didn’t really see a scenario where Tyron lost to Marty. So I hadn’t even started thinking this way. And now that he’s calling me out, I probably have to talk to Tyron a little bit and see where we go from there.”
Askren, 34, made his UFC debut at UFC 235, beating Robbie Lawler by first-round submission in a wild, controversial fight. Lawler lit up Askren early on and nearly finished him. Askren rallied and cinched in a bulldog choke on Lawler. Referee Herb Dean thought Lawler was choked unconscious and called the bout for Askren. But Lawler popped up right away, seemingly fully awake, and argued the result.
Lawler and UFC president Dana White want an immediate rematch between the two fighters. Askren has other plans. He said he didn’t want to fight Lawler in the first place, but accepted right away. Now, he wants to move on. Askren is flying to UFC London for that March 16 card headlined by Darren Till vs. Jorge Masvidal. “Funky” wants the winner.
Askren and Till have already been doing at it on Twitter. Askren joked that he doesn’t really understand what Till, a Scouser, is writing.
Ben, your performance was shit.— Darren Till (@darrentill2) March 3, 2019
You barely won.
You are ugly as fuck.
That chin is too big not to miss.
You have no respect for no one.
Ohh... did I say you were a curly headed fuck.
See you in London muppet! https://t.co/HTlDQP5m4g
”I think it’s like English insults that I don’t even really fully understand,” Askren said. “Whatever. We’re gonna fight in a cage, that’s all I want.”
Askren said he believes the most likely scenario is Till defeating Masvidal, setting up that Askren vs. Till matchup in the future.
“I think it’s a good fight,” Askren said. “I think Masvidal has the ability to beat Darren Till, but the best version of Jorge Masvidal doesn’t always show up. If the best version of Jorge Masvidal shows up, I think he’s got a decent chance of winning. But I think it’s more likely that Darren Till wins.”
Maybe that is the next fight for Askren. Maybe not. Perhaps that title shot could come if Usman and his team decide to pass on Covington. Askren said obviously he is open to fighting for a UFC belt, but a conversation with Woodley would be needed.
“Yeah, I would consult Tyron first,” Askren said. “But as long as he kind of gave his blessing, yeah. Of course.”