UFC president Dana White wants Ben Askren to fight Robbie Lawler in a rematch after a controversial end to their UFC 235 fight. Askren would rather fight the winner of UFC London’s Darren Till vs. Jorge Masvidal main event.
However, the most compelling battle coming out of UFC 235 last weekend? That would be White vs. Askren.
The two men have never really seen eye to eye. Askren wanted to come to the UFC after being an undefeated Bellator champion in 2013. White told him to go to World Series of Fighting to get more experience. He tweeted how boring of a fighter he thought Askren was in pretty explicit terms back then.
Now, with Askren in the UFC following a trade with ONE Championship involving Demetrious Johnson, Askren does not believe much has changed. Though White obviously signed off his acquisition, Askren still thinks White can’t stand him.
“Dana’s disdain for me is just so clear and evident,” Askren told Luke Thomas on Monday’s edition of The MMA Hour. “It’s so hilarious, because he keeps saying, ‘No, I like you, Ben. I don’t dislike you.’ But then literally every action, every body language tells a totally different story, that he is like somehow repulsed by me. He hasn’t liked me forever. He didn’t like me in 2013 when they refused to sign me; he doesn’t like me now.”
“I have offered to sit down with the guy multiple times to be reasonable, like two adults should do. He’s not taken me up one time. I genuinely don’t know what his problem with me is.”
Askren thought that pitting him against Lawler at UFC 235 was White’s idea. Lawler, Askren has acknowledged, is a very tough matchup for him, perhaps the toughest among the top welterweight contenders in the UFC.
In his UFC debut, Askren defeated Lawler by first-round submission last weekend in Las Vegas, but Lawler disputed the choke. He never tapped and Lawler said he was never unconscious. Referee Herb Dean thought otherwise. With the drama coming out of the bout, White wants Askren and Lawler to run it back, especially considering Lawler did a ton of damage to Askren and nearly finished him in the opening minutes. White called it a “bad stoppage.”
In Askren’s mind, his resilience, not the substance of the finish, should have been what everyone was talking about afterward.
“I think that should have been the story of the night, more than anything else,” Askren said. “Like, I dealt with a lot of adversity there. Most guys, 98 percent of the division covers up and takes their ass whooping. There was no quit in me — I just kept fighting.
“I feel like the ending and Dana’s whining about the ending kind of overshadowed what I thought was not an ideal performance for me, but definitely a gritty performance that showed a lot of heart.”
Askren (19-0, 1 NC) said he has asked to sit down with White for a half hour to hash things out and White has turned him down on multiple occasions.
“I’m not asking for more money,” Askren said. “I’m asking to sit down and have a conversation for 30 minutes and that shouldn’t be too much to ask. That’s something that a reasonable person should sit down and have with me.
“To get on the same page. ‘What’s your frickin’ problem with me? What is your problem?’ That’s what I want to know. ‘What’s your problem?”’
Askren and White had an odd interaction on stage last Friday during the UFC 235 ceremonial weigh-ins. White extended his hand to shake Askren’s hand and Askren ignored it, instead getting close to White and saying something to him. Askren was coy about what he said; White said he didn’t remember.
What White was adamant about at the post-fight press conference is that he does not hate Askren and he has not turned down a sit-down meeting with him.
“That dude is nuts,” White said. “He got punched around a little bit tonight. Did he say that after the fight? He got punched around a little bit. That’s crazy. He’s never asked me for 30 minutes. Ever. I’ve never ever turned down a fighter that’s asked me, ‘Can we talk?’ Never once have I ever turned down a fighter. Even Tito [Ortiz]. Never done it — ever.”
Askren, 34, said it has happened, beginning when he saw White at UFC 230 back in November.
“I just think he doesn’t like me. You know there’s just some people, Luke, that you probably see and they just rub you the wrong way? And there’s something about me that rubs him the wrong way. Sometimes you have those situations. When me and someone else aren’t working together, hey let’s sit down and talk it out. I’ve had so many people, they thought something was wrong, we sit down and talk it out. ‘Hey, we’re all good, man.’
“That’s like the minimum that should be happening is sitting down and having a 30-minute conversation. It’s so obvious, it’s so easy. It takes no money. It takes no effort. I’ve made multiple offers. The fact that it’s not happening is perplexing to me.”
And if it doesn’t happen and Askren moves on with his UFC career without a real chat with White? He’ll be OK with it, he said.
“Listen, am I gonna be like depressed?” Askren said. “The answer is no. I’m gonna move on with my life. But do I think that’s probably the best course of action for everyone involved? Yeah, it is. UFC 235 was a really big card and there were many different polls out showing the fight people were most excited for was me. I’m gonna be a big star at this company. And I don’t see a good reason why Dana and I shouldn’t get on the same page. It doesn’t make sense. It just doesn’t make sense. I have all the capabilities of being a big star, I’ve proven that already. Let’s just get on the same page so we don’t have to keep making this difficult for each other.”