Fresh off his historic trade from ONE Championship to a long-awaited shot at the UFC, unbeaten welterweight Ben Askren has narrowed down his preferred choices for immediate opponents.
Askren (18-0, 1 NC), the former Bellator MMA and ONE champion at 170 pounds, was a guest Monday on “Ariel Helwani’s MMA Show” on ESPN. Despite a wild few days on Twitter in which he comedically called out nearly every active welterweight in the UFC, the 34-year-old Askren was asked to choose his most preferred.
“In a perfect world I would fight Khabib [Nurmagomedov] and then Georges [St-Pierre,]” Askren said.
Although Askren admitted he would be physically unable to cut down to the 155-pound limit to challenge Nurmagomedov (27-0) for his UFC lightweight title, he’s open to fighting him at a higher weight class. In fact, Askren said he’s in favor of UFC adopting a new 165-pound weight division and shifting welterweight up to five pounds to 175.
Although Askren had technically retired following his November 2017 win over Shinya Aoki with ONE Championship, he kept the door open to returning only for a UFC superfight. He went on to be traded from ONE last week in exchange for former flyweight champion and pound-for-pound king Demetrious Johnson.
The idea of Askren ever coming to UFC seemed foreign for many years after his multiple public spats with Dana White on social media. Askren told Helwani he has not yet spoken with White despite signing with the promotion and remains blocked on Twitter by the UFC president.
White told TMZ Sports late Sunday that it remains unclear who will be Askren’s first opponent.
“We’re still working on it,” White said. “He’s definitely gonna fight somebody in the top five.”
Askren continued his recent Twitter attack on trying to snare St-Pierre, the 37-year-old former UFC welterweight king, by telling Helwani, “Let’s do this Georges, tell me what I gotta do?”
For all of the fighters at or near the UFC’s 170-pound limit that were called out by Askren in recent days, one might notice he has been quiet about the actual reigning welterweight champion Tyron Woodley. That was by design considering the two were college wrestling teammates at Missouri, where Askren won a pair of NCAA championships, and have been training partners in the pro ranks at Roufusport in Milwaukee.
“I’m not fighting Tyron Woodley,” Askren said. “We’ve been close since I was 17 years old.”
During a recent Instagram Live video, Woodley said he’s happy for his “homie” Askren about signing with UFC and favored him to beat both Nurmagomedov and St-Pierre.
“GSP would never stand a chance against Ben,” Woodley said. “Ben thrives against guys’ offensive onslaughts and GSP’s whole thing was always timing.
“Khabib is a ‘G’ but Khabib ain’t never fought nobody like Ben. He never fought anybody like Ben, he ain’t never fought nobody like Michael Chandler. Those guys would wreck him on life.”
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