While many fans of martial arts would like to keep the entertainment aspect out of the sport and the biggest promotions in the sport, it’s how the sport will grow. While undoubtedly there are two groups of fans revolving around MMA from “casuals” to “hardcores” there are only a select few fighters that help grow the brand of the UFC and MMA as a sport.
Those casual fans will likely mainly know the names of Conor McGregor, Jon Jones, and Ronda Rousey, and not many more fighters after that. While they overlook so many incredibly talented fighters, the fact is that those three big names are the three that have changed the sport from just mixed martial arts, to entertainment mixed in with MMA.
Meanwhile, two of those three (McGregor and Rousey) haven’t had a win inside the UFC Octagon in multiple years, with Rousey now in WWE and McGregor spending more time in news headlines due to run-ins with the law. Now Jon Jones is back and the casual fan has at least one name to run to, a champion who wants to be active in 2019, and a champion that knows how to sell tickets.
Let Ben Askren introduce himself as the hero MMA fans never knew they needed but now he’s all everyone should want in this sport. After years of feuding with UFC President, Askren came over to the UFC in the first ever MMA trade when the UFC sent flyweight champion Demetrious Johnson over to ONE Championship in exchange for Askren, who came into the UFC with a record of 18-0-1.
Askren came in with one of the best wrestling backgrounds that MMA has ever seen as a former Olympian and he was also the former Bellator and ONE Championship welterweight champion. Outside of his credentials, Askren is a long-time training partner and teammate of former UFC welterweight champion Tyron Woodley and the two have created quite the bond which has been on full display since Askren arrived to the UFC.
With his arrival, the UFC did not hold back on Askren and matched him up against former champion Robbie Lawler at UFC 235 in early March. The fight would come to a controversial stop when referee Herb Dean thought Lawler’s arm went limp as Askren was applying a bulldog choke and ultimately “Funky” was rewarded the victory over Lawler.
Following the win at UFC 235, Dana White made it clear that he wanted to run back the matchup between Lawler and Askren, but Askren spoke to the media afterwards and made it clear he had no interest in a rematch. As there is no clear cut answer as to what is next for Ben Askren in the UFC, what is clear, is that he’s the breath of fresh air that the promotion has been waiting for.
Leading up to his fight against Lawler, Askren spent most of his time taking aim at other welterweight contenders including Colby Covington and newly-crowned champion Kamaru Usman who Askren refers to as “Marty from Nebraska”. His newest Twitter feud is with Bellator fighter and teammate of Conor McGregor, Dillon Danis but even as those two engage, the hilarity following their feud can not be ignored.
“Boom roasted” has been the trend for Askren as he takes aim at other fighters, but it’s about the culture and the brand that Askren is building for himself upon entering the UFC which makes it even more fun. In Ben Askren what the casual and hardcore fans have been given is one of the most talented welterweight fighters of all-time that many likely never heard of, and he’s building his own brand by being funny in the way that would make soccer dads believe Askren has a future in comedy.
He’ll choke you out, beat you on the ground, and call out every opponent along the way to the top of the UFC’s welterweight division. In doing so, Ben “Funky” Askren has become the fighter that has the potential to not only become the next champion in his division, but the next star that every fan will know by the time he reaches the top of the UFC mountain.
The best part about his journey to the top? Ben Askren doesn’t care. When he came over to the UFC he made it clear that he just wanted to prove that he is the best in the world and with that single goal in his mind, Askren has paved the way for his future to be incredibly bright and successful with the UFC.