Despite the strange circumstances surrounding his successful UFC debut earlier this year, Ben Askren believes he may have the inside track to a welterweight title shot.
At UFC 235 in March, the 34-year-old managed to withstand an early barrage from Robbie Lawler, including being slammed on his head, get his bearings straight and find a way to submit the veteran by a bulldog choke after referee Herb Dean adjudicated that Lawler had lost consciousness during the submission attempt despite protests by the veteran after the fight.
Askren said after the fight that he didn’t want a rematch as he’s looking to capture a UFC belt. The promotion booked him against Jorge Masvidal next month at UFC 239.
The undefeated “Funky” told MMAFighting that he believes if he defeats Masvidal in convincing fashion, he has a chance of leapfrogging former interim champ Colby Covington to earn himself a title shot against the newly-crowned champion Kamaru Usman.
“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 said. “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.”
“I think it is [possible],” Askren said of the possibility of leapfrogging 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----- 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.”
UFC 239 takes place on July 6 at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas and will be headlined by a light heavyweight title fight between champion Jon Jones and his challenger, the heavy-hitting Thiago Santos.