It sounds as though Ben Askren will be thrown directly into the fire when he makes his Ultimate Fighting Championship debut.
Dana White recently weighed in on the historic trade that brought Askren to the UFC from One Championship in exchange for Demetrious Johnson in a brief interview with TMZ Sports.
“We’re still working on [an opponent for Askren’s UFC debut]. Obviously he’s going to come into the welterweight division,” White said. “He’s undefeated, he’s their champion. We’re excited about it. He’s definitely going to fight somebody in the top 5.”
Askren retired from MMA following a 57-second stoppage of Shinya Aoki this past November, but left the door open for a return with the right offer. A former One and Bellator MMA titlist, “Funky” is 18-0 as a professional with wins over the likes of Douglas Lima, Andrey Koreshkov, Jay Hieron and Lyman Good.
Meanwhile, the UFC will be losing Johnson, widely regarded as one of the top pound-for-pound talents in the sport. The former flyweight king set the record for successful championship defenses with 11. “Mighty Mouse” finally relinquished the belt in a split-decision defeat to Henry Cejudo at UFC 227 on Aug. 4. White admitted that Johnson’s UFC run might not have been fully appreciated.
“If you look at it, the kid broke the record for most title defenses. I feel like he never really got the love and respect he deserved from the fans,” White said. “I don’t know if he was always thrilled being here, so hopefully he’s a lot happier where he’s headed now. His longtime trainer and coach [Matt Hume] is an executive there, so maybe he’ll be happier over there.”