Ultimate Fighting Championship President Dana White promised that Ben Askren would be given a top-five welterweight in his debut and delivered, with Askren now scheduled to fight No. 5-ranked former champion Robbie Lawler at UFC 233 in January.
The undefeated Askren put the welterweight division on notice when the UFC announced they had signed him as part of a swap deal with former UFC flyweight champion Demetrious Johnson who is heading over to One Championship, needling multiple fighters on social media and calling out recent title challenger Darren Till specifically.
ESPN’s Brett Okamoto spoke to Askren about why the UFC decided to pair him with Lawler instead of Till or any of the other fighters with whom he had been sparring verbally.
"[Lawler] is probably the guy in the top five with the best opportunity to beat me," Askren said. "He has pretty good wrestling and he's obviously a heavy striker. If you want someone to beat me, that's probably the best you'll find."
Askren believes the UFC doesn’t want him to be successful, which is the reason for the booking.
"Come on, man," he said. "It's obvious. They don't want me to win. [UFC president Dana White] will deny it, but he should just come out and say, 'I don't like Ben Askren. I think he's a jackass and I want to see him get beat up.' That'd be cool, and I would take no offense to that whatsoever."