MILWAUKEE – It’s not exactly water under the bridge for Ben Askren in regards to his relationship with Dana White.
But at the same time, the former ONE Championship and Bellator champion is pretty clear that he’s only coming to the UFC to do one thing: fight, and win.
Askren announced his retirement in 2017, but when the opportunity to come to the UFC arose earlier this fall through a unique “trade” between that promotion and ONE Championship for Demetrious Johnson, Askren (18-0 MMA, 0-0 UFC) decided to return. He’s booked to take on former UFC welterweight champ Robbie Lawler (28-12 MMA, 13-6 UFC) at UFC 235 in March.
Askren told MMAjunkie in Milwaukee earlier this month that he hadn’t yet spoken to White after signing with the UFC, and it’s not necessarily a matter of all being forgiven now that he’s under White’s banner.
“I think when when one person and another person have a disagreement, the thing you need to do, if you want to have respect for each other, is sit down and have that conversation,” Askren said. “We haven’t been able to do that so far. He’s said nice things (in) the media, but that’s also because I volunteered to do the dirty work. I volunteered to switch and be the main event against Robbie (at UFC 233), Robbie said no. I volunteered to fight ‘Marty from Nebraska’ (Kamaru Usman), ‘Marty’ said no. I volunteered to fight dumb Colby (Covington). So he sees the value in what I’m doing, so now he’s being nice.
“It’s whatever, though. What has happened in the past doesn’t just go away. Because of his position, he thinks that’s how it goes. But listen, I’m here to fight people in the cage, not be anyone’s best friend. If we develop a friendship, that’s fine. But I’m here to fight people in the cage.”
Askren’s history with the UFC, and specifically with President Dana White, has been a contentious one. White long was a regular critic of Askren when he was in Bellator and ONE Championship, and Askren often fired right back.
“The thing is with Ben Askren is that Ben Askren doesn’t really want to fight here, in my opinion,” White said on UFC.com in 2014. “People that are close to him say the same thing. The guy is making a ton of money to fight nobodies. But when you talk and you say a lot of things, it keeps your name out there. Trust me when I tell you this: Ben Askren does not want to fight in the UFC. Believe me when I tell you that.”
That was in response to Askren’s Twitter criticism of the UFC signing Phil “CM Punk” Brooks, a WWE star who had a 0-0 record in MMA – but didn’t want to sign Askren.
Askren said he thinks White believed much of what he was saying in the past about him, and that it wasn’t just trash talk since Askren was fighting for competitors.
“I’m sure to a certain extent, he believed it – it had kernels of truth in them,” Askren said. “But there was a lot of BS in there. A few of them were total BS: ‘He needs more experience’? I mean, that one was the funniest one of them all. So a lot of them were BS.”
Askren’s chance to start to put that “BS” talk to bed for good comes against Lawler at UFC 235, which takes place March 2 at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.