Opinion: Ben Askren to the UFC?
By Jesse Heitz
It’s been a relatively slow week for MMA news. Everyone must be thoroughly exhausted from the spectacle that was UFC 167, and the incredible and far-reaching controversies and ramifications that resulted from the event. Yet, when we’ve discussed those very same ramifications, those that naturally dominate the UFC’s Welterweight Division, an outsider has thrown himself into the mix.
The man I’m talking about, a man that I’ve discussed in previous pieces, is Ben Askren. In a recent interview with the Bleacher Report, Askren chatted about his career prospects and his desire to enter the MMA Promised Land, the UFC. In the interview he stated,
“I’d be shocked if I didn’t get an offer from the UFC. I’m the sixth ranked fighter in the division.”
“I feel like my jiu-jitsu and wrestling are better. When it got tough (at UFC 167) he backed down. You might land a good punch here and there but to beat me, you’re going to have to be tough. I think he was severely over-hyped.”
“I’m going to keep doing what I do best. I’m working on my weaknesses at Roufusport and I train with Anthony Pettis, who I could argue is the best striker in all of MMA. And we train kickboxing, boxing, not just MMA.”
“You know I do or say things sometimes to get a reaction out of fans. It’s all about the fans wanting to see you. Whether they want to see you win or lose, as long as they tune in.”
“I’d have to think long and hard about joining the World Series of fighting. I honestly think there’s more competition in Bellator at 170 pounds. I mean their champion (Steve Carl) couldn’t even get past the semifinal round of Bellator’s tournaments. I can make money a lot of ways besides being locked in a cage.”
As you can see, Askren covered a lot of diverse ground in discussing his future. First, I’ll take on his statement about getting a reaction out of the fans. Doing things to hype a fight is becoming commonplace, almost to the point where a handful of fighters devote far more energy to cutting promos than they do preparing for their fights. I’m all for a fighter stirring up fan interest, if he can back that up in the cage or ring. There’s nothing worse than a fighter flapping his gums for months and getting the anticipation for a fight to a fever pitch, then coming in and giving a lackluster performance.
This leads into my next point. Askren’s take on developing his skill set. Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is a wonderful martial art, it’s an even better compliment to stellar wrestling. I’m happy to see that he’s trying to break the pure wrestler mold that currently defines him, that he’s working diligently to develop a stand-up game.
However, given his most recent appearances, he’s still more of the same. Sure he dominated the welterweights in Bellator and would probably do the same in the World Series of Fighting, but let’s be honest with ourselves, it’s an entirely different world in the UFC. Sure, Askren is a top 10 welterweight, but what can he do in the world’s premier division when it’s stacked full of fighters who have comparable if not superior wrestling, submissions, and striking? So, is the UFC really just playing hardball, or are they simply somewhat indifferent towards signing Askren?