LAS VEGAS – Ben Askren has never minced words regarding his gameplan during his fighting career. That hasn’t changed for his UFC debut.
Askren (18-0 MMA, 0-0 UFC), the former ONE Championship and Bellator titleholder, will make his long-awaited octagon debut on Saturday when he takes on former UFC champ Robbie Lawler (28-12 MMA, 13-6 UFC) in a featured bout at UFC 235.
On paper, the matchup with Lawler would appear to be one of the more difficult potential draws for Askren’s first UFC appearance. “Ruthless” has solid takedown defense and proven knockout power, but that doesn’t frighten Askren, who has the wrestling credentials to bring any fight to the floor.
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“I think the opening minutes are critical because Robbie is a fighter who can do a lot of damage quick, and he’s known to come out fast and he fights in sprints,” Askren told MMAjunkie at UFC 235 media day. “So coming out and establishing the way I want the fight to be fought is super important. I think it’s about me imposing my will. Closing distance, not taking big punches and getting a hold of him. It’s as simple as that. Once I get ahold of him, man, I don’t think he’s got much of a hope.”
UFC 235 takes place at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. Askren vs. Lawler is part of the pay-per-view main card, which follows prelims on ESPN and UFC Fight Pass.
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Both men enter the key 170-pound contest from career-long layoffs. Askren has been out of action for 463 days and is returning from retirement, while Lawler is on a 441-day layoff due to a knee surgery following his previous fight.
There are varying theories as to how a significant amount of time off can impact a fighter. Askren doesn’t know what it’ll do to Lawler, but on his side, he said it’s not a concern.
“I don’t think ring rust is a real thing,” Askren said. “I think it’s kind of an excuse. Obviously after a poor performance everyone wants to make an excuse for their poor performance and if that’s just one of them. It’s one of them. I feel good. I think the extra five weeks – because I was supposed to fight Jan. 26 – I think that was helpful. I think initially I was really annoyed about it, but I think it was good. I just felt myself getting better every single week. It’s riding a bicycle. Everything would come back to me timing-wise.”
To hear more from Askren, check out the video above.
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