Ben Askren has been calling for a top welterweight for his UFC debut, and it appears Dana White is going to grant his wish.
Though he wasn’t on Askren’s wish list of Octagon debut opponent’s, it appears that Robbie Lawler may be on tap for the former Bellator and ONE Championship titleholder’s first fight under the UFC banner. MMAWeekly.com’s Damon Martin confirmed the news first reported by ESPN’s Brett Okamoto, who cited UFC president Dana White.
“Breaking: Ben Askren vs. Robbie Lawler targeted for UFC 233 on Jan. 26 in Anaheim, per Dana White,” Okamoto wrote on Twitter. “Contracts are not signed yet from what I’m told, but UFC is working on getting it finalized.”
A short time later, Askren didn’t exactly confirm the bout, but seemed to endorse it, saying, “Lots of welterweights are breathing easy right about now. Don’t worry, your times will come!”
Lots of welterweights breathing easy right about now. Don’t worry your times will come! https://t.co/8xDJwIC7VZ
— Ben Askren (@Benaskren) November 6, 2018
A bout with Lawler isn’t Askren’s perfect world scenario, but what he would like was a tall ask, and he knew it. What Askren would like to do is fight Georges St-Pierre, still considered by most as the greatest UFC welterweight of all time, and then to fight Khabib Nurmagomedov. That scenario obviously wasn’t going to play out, so he had instead targeted Darren Till.
“If it were a perfect world, I’d go GSP (Georges St-Pierre) and Khabib (Nurmagomedov) and then we’ll see. I know it’s not perfect, so who I’m really shooting for first is Darren Till. He’s ranked No. 2. He doesn’t have a dance partner,” Askren said last week on UFC Tonight.
The UFC, however, went in a different direction, zeroing in on Lawler, who had previously been mentioned as a potential opponent for Stephen Thompson.
Askren brings a spotless record into the UFC. He is 18-0 with one no contest. For several years, he defeated everyone that Bellator MMA could throw his direction, and then did the same to everyone on the ONE Championship roster. Having retired after his November 2017 bout with Shinya Aoki, Askren opted to come out of retirement and moved over to the UFC in a blockbuster trade that sent former UFC flyweight champion Demetrious Johnson to ONE Championship.
Though it doesn’t come with the trash talk fireworks that someone like Till would provide, Askren’s first draw in the Octagon isn’t anywhere near a simple warm-up fight.
Lawler (28-12, 1 NC) has been fighting for nearly 18 years. He is a former UFC welterweight champion and has held titles with Elite XC, Icon Sport, and SuperBrawl. He has been on the sidelines since losing a unanimous decision to Rafael dos Anjos in December 2017 while dealing with a torn Anterior Cruciate Ligament.
UFC 233 doesn’t yet have a headlining bout, but is scheduled to take place on Jan. 26 at the Honda Center in Anaheim, Calif.
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