In the 24 hours since Ben Askren was rumored to be part of a historic trade between competing promotions, the former Bellator MMA and ONE Championship welterweight champion hasn’t wasted any time lining potential opponents.
Should Askren (18-0, 1 NC), a dominant grappler and former two-time NCAA champion at Missouri, end up fulfilling his dream of competing against the top 170-pound fighters in the UFC, as ESPN’s Ariel Helwani reported Wednesday, one can expect the smoke of his full-on Twitter assault on Thursday to lead to fire inside the Octagon.
Askren, 34, is on the verge of securing a deal that would free him from his contract with Asia-based ONE Championship in a “trade” with UFC that would send longtime flyweight champion Demetrious Johnson to ONE. It’s a reality few thought would ever be possible, including Askren himself, after his 2012 Twitter feud with UFC president Dana White appeared to seal his fate as persona non grata to the promotion.
Now, just months after he announced his retirement from the sport (along with the caveat that he would only return for a super fight in the UFC), Askren has embarked on a social media tour-de-force to recruit new opponents, many of whom fired back at him.
Thanks to his dominant ground game, Askren has largely dominated opponents as a professional, including four defenses each of his Bellator and ONE welterweight titles. For years, hard-core MMA fans wondered whether his one-dimensional style and fairly pedestrian striking game could produce the same success against the UFC’s best fighters.
It appears Askren has wondered the same thing and has used the negativity from rival fighters over the years as stored fuel.
Askren even tweeted what appears to be a shot at UFC lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov, who joins Askren on the short list of MMA’s most dominant wrestlers.
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