The groundbreaking “trade” which saw Ben Askren leave ONE Championship for UFC may break new ground for the former University of Missouri wrestling champ in yet another way: He doesn’t plan to talk trash about Robbie Lawler, who he will be facing in the Octagon at UFC 233 in January.
Askren plans to make his UFC debut against Lawler, a former welterweight (170 pound) champ, at UFC 233 at Honda Center in Anaheim, Calif. on Jan. 23, 2019, according to UFC president Dana White. The “trade” — reported by InterMat two weeks ago — is a done deal, with Askren making the move from ONE to UFC, while UFC flyweight champ Demetrious Johnson now on the roster at ONE.
As ESPN.com’s Brent Okamoto wrote Wednesday, “In the past two weeks, Ben Askren has called out nearly every welterweight on the UFC roster.”
But apparently not former champ Lawler.
“He’s probably the guy in the top five with the best opportunity to beat me,” Askren told ESPN. “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.”
So why does the former Mizzou mat champ — not to mention past titleholder in both ONE and Bellator MMA promotions — think the UFC would want to see him lose in his debut?
“Come on, man,” said Askren. “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.”
Askren, 34, brings a perfect 18-0 professional MMA record to the UFC … along with an impressive amateur wrestling resume as a four-time NCAA finalist and two-time champ, and member of the U.S. men’s freestyle wrestling team at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
Like Askren, the 36-year-old Lawler has some amateur mat experience, having earned all-state honors at Bettendorf High School in Iowa. However, after graduation, Lawler concentrated on MMA training. In a career going back to April 2001, Lawler has built a 28-12 record, with 20 knockouts. Since losing his last bout in Dec. 2017, Lawler has been out with a torn ACL.