Ben Askren might not be the self-marketing super guru we thought he was. Yes, he finally got the attention of Dana White after preserving his undefeated record with an electrifying win at OneFC. That sharp Twitter campaign of Ben’s finally looked to be paying off. But instead of wallpapering the Internet with sparkling “I heart UFC” gifs, he used the moment to criticize the UFC President. Perhaps out of habit.
“I have a hard time with how Dana White treats people,” Askren said in this interview with Ariel Helwani on the MMA Hour. Askren referenced how Dana treated Barao after the fighter missed weight. “ . . . [T]he way Dana just threw him under the bus like he was a piece of garbage. Where was some human decency there? I think we’ve seen it time after time with Dana. And so I think at the end of the day he cares about his bottom line a lot and he doesn’t care enough about the athletes.”
Speaking of busses, Askren thinks this is ultimately just a high school popularity scenario. “It’s kind of like all of us had that time in high school when we were bullied by the cool group of kids. Then we did something, then the cool group said, ‘Oh my God, can you be part of our group?’ Then some of us who didn’t have low self-esteem said, ‘Well, you didn’t want me the first time, I’m alright.’ Then some other people, they run, ‘The cool kids want to hang out with me? Yes, please.’ I think it’s kind of one of those things.”
This may make Askren the most legitimate personality in MMA. A man without a real angle. A well-rounded circle of professional combat, he may not have any angle at all. And like a man willing to meet you Matt Hughes style at the corner of a field to settle a border dispute fair and square, Ben is willing to talk to White, maybe even contemplate a spit and a handshake, but he isn’t going to do any begging. “I’m not going to grovel,” he said. “I’m not going to be a kiss-up. I think he started with the personal attacks before I did. … If he wanted to meet face to face and talk, we could settle the beef, I’d be open to that.”
Askren is becoming one of the most likable figures in the sport. That’s impressive, considering he was believed by some to be a potential liability for the UFC, a guy capable of claiming the championship title with a boring style that would refuse to go away. But that’s changed now. “I’ve got more skills in my pinky finger than half the damn guys in the UFC,” he said.
Watching how Ben’s outspoken personality responds to real employment with the UFC may prove to be as interesting as seeing how he competes at the highest level. In the Octagon, he’ll probably do just fine. But he might have to soften his stance on Dana White if he wants to score that Twitter bonus.
Thanks to Dave Doyle of MMA Fighting for the transcription.