The UFC has always been in the market of signing the best fighters in the world to compete inside the Octagon. If that’s the case, then the UFC needs to sign one of the best undefeated fighters on the planet, Ben Askren.
Based on merit, there’s no question Askren should be in the UFC. The former Bellator MMA welterweight champion and the former ONE Championship welterweight champion is 18-0, 1 NC in his pro MMA career. After starting his career on the regional circuit going 3-0 in 2009, Bellator signed the former NCAA Division 1 wrestler and he quickly became one of the faces of the emerging promotion. In Bellator, Askren went 9-0 between 2010 and 2013. He won the promotion’s season two welterweight tournament, becoming the second 170lbs champ in Bellator history after Lyman Good. Askren then defended his title four times, including a particularly dominant win over Andrey Koreshkov in his last fight in the promotion.
Then-president and CEO of Bellator Bjorn Rebney decided to make a surprising decision and release Askren from his deal despite being a dominant champion for the promotion. The reason? Rebney felt Askren was too one-dimensional, in his opinion, and not someone that Bellator wanted to promote on Spike TV. That made Askren a free agent for the first time in his career and in line to sign a lucrative contract. Despite calls from the media and fellow fighters for the UFC to sign Askren, instead “Funky” had a public war of words with UFC president Dana White, which is always a big no-no. Askren, who is one of the most outspoken fighters in the sport, couldn’t see eye-to-eye with White, and the UFC decided to pass on him. Instead, ONE Championship signed Askren to a big-money contract, and he quickly became that promotion’s most recognizable star.
In ONE Championship, Askren went 6-0, 1 NC from 2014-2017, winning its welterweight title and defending it three times. After being criticized for a lack of finishes in Bellator, Askren became more of a finisher in ONE, stopping five of the seven opponents he fought, including a brutal TKO win over Shinya Aoki in his last outing. Despite making a lot of money in ONE, Askren decided to retire from MMA this past November, seemingly putting an end to ever seeing him inside the Octagon.
But we all know MMA retirements don’t last, and just a few months after retiring, Askren is already back in the headlines, calling out MMA legend Georges St-Pierre for a comeback fight. It’s clear that Askren is interested in fighting in the UFC, and there are some really intriguing matchups for him in the Octagon. Based on merit and based on his record, there’s no question Askren is a UFC-caliber fighter. The problem is Askren can’t get along with White, and White controls who enters and leaves the Octagon. If Askren truly wants to fight in the UFC, then he’s going to have to bite his tongue, apologize to White, and maybe then he’ll get a second chance fighting in the UFC. Apologizing and giving into White doesn’t sound like it’s in Askren’s character, but if he truly wants to fight in the UFC then that’s what he’ll have to do.
As a fan of the sport, I’ve always been intrigued by the thought of Askren fighting in the UFC. He’s been utterly dominant everywhere he’s fought to this point in his career and he seems to actually be improving still. At 33 and without having taken much damage in his career, it’s fair to say Askren is still in his prime. Maybe he doesn’t get the GSP fight he desires so bad, or even the Woodley fight right off the bat, but there’s no question Askren would be an interesting matchup for many of the UFC’s top-10 welterweights. Plus, he can trash talk with the best of them and would be able to hype up any fight the UFC books him for.
The UFC has always signed the best fighters in the world, and Askren is one of them. It’s time he and White put their differences aside, put ink to paper, and brought Askren into the fold in the Octagon. At a time when the promotion is in dire need of new stars, Askren has that potential, and though the UFC passed on him the last time he was a free agent, they would be silly to pass on him this time around.
Leave a comment below. Do you think we’ll ever see Ben Askren in the UFC?