The UFC roster is pretty much filled for the first quarter of 2019 and I have to say the fighter I am most eager to watch is Ben Askren.
The Mighty Mouse / Askren trade was the first of it’s kind in UFC history and much has been written about Ben in the interim. We seem, finally, to have a date for Askren and Robbie Lawlor to fight on the UFC 235 card in early March as co-main event.
For those of you not familiar with Askren here is the good news. The Joe Rogan MMA show from 12 months ago will give you everything you need to know about the man and the fighter. At the time the show aired Askren was retired and so he is even more candid than his normally candid self on it.
The fact that the UFC led him on a merry dance in 2013 is handled by him with grace and humour. It also makes for great viewing as it cast a spotlight on the inner workings of the UFC and Zuffa at the time. Askren knows why the UFC did what they did and is analytical in explanations as to why.
The beauty of watching it now is that not even in his wildest dreams could he have envisaged, that he would be a UFC fighter withing 12 months. In fact it didn’t even really come up during the conversation. At no stage did I get the impression that this was a guy that was looking back on the “what might have been’s” of his career. He is far too smart a guy for shit like that. At the same time though you could kind of get the impression Joe Rogan’s mind was whirring.
If there is one single reason why Askren is finally and belatedly making his debut in March it is Joe Rogan. Of all the analysts and former fighters that are now in the media game he is the only one that has actual influence with Dana White.
Beyond the fact they are friends – Joe Rogan is as successful as Dana White in his own right. There is respect as well as friendship there. I would go as far as to say Rogan specifically set up the Askren Podcast with this outcome in mind. Without either man knowing what he was doing!
Rogan has been a long time admirer and advocate of Askren not just as a fighter but as a personality.
Since Askren has arrived in the UFC he has been behaving like a guy having fun and supremely confident that what he has been saying all these years – That he is the best welterweight in the world – is about to be proven.
Askren did his best to save the the UFC 233 by offering to forego Lawlor and jump straight in against Colby Covington or Kamaru Usman. Basically to try and make a headlining fight to save the card. It didn’t pan out but it is noticeable that since he made the offer the attitude of Dana White has thawed towards the former Olympic wrestler. At the end of the day the UFC comes down to money and in Ben Askren the UFC has got a proven performer who also will put bums on seats.
Askren isn’t in the UFC to build up a head of steam by taking a few handy fights. It’s clear he will take anyone on anywhere. Till, Thompson, Colby, Usman – as far as Askren is concerned they are not just inferior but considerably inferior. So it matters not a jot if he fights them tomorrow or in 18 months time. It’s just so exciting to have an athlete like this cannon ball into the division like a wrecking ball.
Everyone in the game knows Askren and Tyron Woodley are friends since they were teenagers. He has said many times because of this friendship he would never fight Woodley. As for everybody else….the clock is ticking…