Ben Askren made his highly anticipated UFC debut on Saturday night against Robbie Lawler. He beat Lawler by submission — although in controversial fashion.
Following his fight, Askren planned to walk out and corner his teammate Tyron Woodley in his title fight with Kamaru Usman. The UFC initially approved of Askren serving as a cornerman. However, after his fight, the UFC wouldn’t allow it.
“I was really disappointed with the UFC staff,” Askren said at the post-fight press conference (transcript via MMAFighting). “I thought I had it cleared on Tuesday that as soon as I got done with my fight, that I would go out to the cage [to corner Woodley]. They said no problem. And then I tried going out there and they stopped me. They wouldn’t even let me go in the arena, and I was really disappointed by that. I mean, if you don’t want to let me in the corner, fine. But, find an effing seat for me somewhere a couple rows back where I can watch one of my best friends perform.
“I was really disappointed by that fact because I thought the issue was handled ahead of time,” he added. “I didn’t foresee that becoming an issue, so I rushed back, I skipped stitches so I could go out there with them, and then they stopped me. And I really didn’t like that.
“I understand there’s rules and stuff here, but I thought I did my due diligence in taking care of that.”
Ultimately, Woodley lost the fight to Kamaru Usman, in what was a dominant performance for Usman. Now, Askren is left wondering, if he was in the corner could he have gotten Woodley going? Or, could he have possibly given Woodley valuable advice in between rounds that changed the outcome of the fight?
“You never know,” Askren said. “I coach a lot of kids, right? My brother and I own three wrestling academies and you just never know. Sometimes it’s not always me, but what someone’s going to say that’s going to make something click.
“Tyron’s main weakness, which, it showed tonight, is his need for perfection. Right? He kept looking for that perfect punch, that perfect punch. Marty just kept pressing forward and pressing forward, and the perfect punch didn’t come. But at some point you’ve just got to let it go. So I know if I’m in the corner, that’s what I’m going to say. ‘Tyron, let your hands go, punch him in the face. It’s not that hard, hit him.’ And that’s what I would’ve been saying to him over and over and over again.
“Would that have made a difference? I’m not sure, but I would’ve liked to have that opportunity. And like I said, I felt like I did my due diligence earlier in the week to take care of it, and I guess next time I’ll be more prepared.”
Do you think if Ben Askren was in Tyron Woodley’s corner things could have been different?
This article first appeared on BJPENN.COM on 3/4/19.