LONDON – It didn’t take long for Ben Askren to get into it with a fellow UFC welterweight.
UFC on ESPN+ 5 headliner Jorge Masvidal (32-13 MMA, 9-6 UFC) didn’t take kindly to Askren’s presence and let him know when they crossed paths, Askren (19-0 MMA, 1-0 UFC) today told MMA Junkie.
“It’s so funny,” the former Bellator and ONE Championship titleholder said. “I don’t have to say anything to get under their skin. I say, ‘Hey, Jorge is here,’ and he starts cussing and gets all pissed off. It’s hilarious.”
Earlier this week, Masvidal called Askren an (expletive) for not taking a rematch with his teammate Robbie Lawler (28-13 MMA, 13-7 UFC), who battered Askren before a controversial submission loss at UFC 235.
Askren also got under the skin of Masvidal’s opponent at UFC on ESPN+ 5 on Saturday, Darren Till. During a fan Q&A today ahead of the UFC London ceremonial weigh-ins, Askren said he wanted to fight Till – and Till appeared from backstage to flip him the bird and offer an explicit message.
But back to Masvidal: Askren scoffs at his professed concern for Lawler’s future.
“The reason he’s saying that and every other welterweight is saying that is because they don’t want me to be on their dance card next,” he said. “Isn’t it obvious? Do you really think Jorge Masvidal is so passionate about Robbie Lawler’s career that he needs me to go take that fight again? He doesn’t want me to be with him! That’s what he doesn’t want.”
According to Askren, that opinion goes to the top of the welterweight division, whether it’s from contenders or title challengers. And they reveal themselves by complaining about his presence.
“All these welterweights are talking about me,” he said. “It’s so funny, because they’re like, ‘I don’t realize why he came over here.’ Dum-dum, this is exactly why I came over her – because you’re talking about me.”
So far, talk of a rematch between Askren and Lawler hasn’t materialized into a bout. Askren said he’s had no conversations with the UFC about a second go-around, despite promotion President Dana White targeting one after UFC 235.
“To me, it feels like it’s falling on deaf ears,” he said. “I didn’t want to fight Robbie in the first place. I didn’t have anything against him. There’s all these welterweights I don’t like that I would prefer to fight. And so it feels like I need to take the next step and move on.”
That leaves Masvidal – and his upcoming opponent, onetime title challenger Darren Till (17-1-1 MMA, 5-1-1 UFC) – as prime candidates for Askren’s next octagon outing. With newly minted champ Kamaru Usman expected to face ex-interim champ Colby Covington in his first title defense, Askren thinks Usman is ducking him.
“If I’m him, and there’s this guy that’s just annoying the (expletive) out of me … and I’m the champ and I get to call out whoever I want, I’m saying, ‘Listen, you’re dead,’” Askren said. “And he didn’t say that. I think there’s seeds of doubt in his mind whether he can beat me or not.”
Usman undoubtedly would disagree, since he and Covington have a grudge that precedes Askren’s time in the UFC. When it comes to promotion, however, and the bankability of the matchup, Askren thinks he’s the better play.
“I’m going to sell way more pay-per-views than Colby is,” he said. “Look at any metric you want to, I’m way more popular than Colby. And Colby, his schtick is really simple. He can act like a racist or something, maybe that sells fights. I don’t think that sells fight – I think that just turns people off.”
Askren expects U.K. standout Till will ultimately come out head on Saturday at The O2, and Usman vs. Covington to co-headline a pay-per-view event in the near future. In the meantime, he’ll be around, ready and willing to aggravate.