When Ben Askren came out of retirement to finally join the UFC roster it was only for one reason — and that was proving he’s the best in the world.
With a win over former welterweight champion Robbie Lawler in his debut, the former Olympic wrestler has already positioned himself with a high ranking in the division as he prepares to face Jorge Masvidal at UFC 239 in July.
Masvidal is coming off a stunning knockout against former title contender Darren Till, which makes him the perfect opponent as Askren continues to chase his ultimate goal to compete for the UFC welterweight championship.
“To prove I’m the best in the world is the one goal that I came back for because I was retired. I think this puts me closer to that,” Askren told MMAFighting. “I think the way the momentum is shifting, if I beat up Jorge Masvidal, I think there’s a good chance I get a title shot, and if not, I’m not very far away. I’m pretty darn close.”
The biggest obstacle outside of Masvidal standing in Askren’s way is former interim champion Colby Covington, who has been promised the next shot at Kamaru Usman and his welterweight title.
Covington was at odds with the UFC earlier this year after he was passed over in favor of Usman, who went onto win the title with a lopsided unanimous decision victory against former champion Tyron Woodley.
Eventually, Covington sat down with UFC president Dana White and the two agreed that he would be next in line to challenge Usman when he’s ready to fight again after he underwent double hernia surgery following his championship win back in March.
The problem is Usman doesn’t expect to return until the latter part of the year and even he’s said nothing is guaranteed when it comes to who he fights next in his first title defense.
What was promised yesterday doesn’t necessarily end up happening tomorrow and that’s why Askren feels like a strong showing against Masvidal could help put Covington back in a holding pattern without a title shot.
“I think it is [possible],” Askren said about leap frogging Covington into title contention. “I don’t think people are too into Colby’s schtick anymore. They realize it’s old, it’s washed up, it’s just not that exciting. The guy is doing one of these things where you sit out and wait for a title fight and that is something I will never, ever do.
“How long ago was Colby’s last fight? Last June? What is this mother—ker going to sit out for 16 months and expect to get a title shot? The only way to stay relevant in this sport is to stay in there and keep getting after it. So yeah, if I go beat up Jorge, I’m going to have a lot more momentum. And if “Marty” (Kamaru Usman) wants to make some money, I’m sure “Marty” has a pay-per-view clause in his contract, you’re damn sure that I’m going to sell a whole bunch more pay-per-views against him than Colby would.”
Askren has never shied away from taking shots at Covington, who he called out for a fight almost immediately after he inked his contract with the UFC.
While that fight could still take place one day, Askren just doesn’t understand the logic of sitting out for more than a year and just hoping to maintain your position while other fighters in the division are going out and getting wins.
“That’s a long time to sit out in your prime,” Askren said. “Colby had a minor surgery and then if you remember, Colby had the option to fight “Marty” in January of this year and Colby said no and then Colby got burned on that whole deal.
“I don’t know why he keeps sitting out. He should have figured out that probably isn’t a great strategy and went to a different strategy.”
Beyond anything else, Askren knows that he could sell a fight against Usman and that would ultimately put more money into the UFC’s bank account, which is why he believes the title shot could be his with a win on July 6.
“I don’t see why not,” Askren said. “At the end of the day what the UFC sees more than anything are dollar signs and right now when they look at me, that’s what I present.”