UFC

Askren targeting a future with the UFC

Olympic wrestler Ben Askren
Ben Askren is willing to sit out to get a chance in the big leagues.
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Damon Martin

Damon Martin is a veteran mixed martial arts journalist who has been covering the sport since 2004. His work has been published in CNN, Bleacher Report, MMAWeekly.com, Yahoo! Sports, UFC.com and SportsIllustrated.com. He also co-hosts The Great Debate Radio MMA podcast, and has appeared on ESPN Radio and SportsNet Radio. Follow him on Twitter.

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Ben Askren is a man without a home currently and he's hoping to change that soon, but it might be until July 2014 before that happens.

The former Olympian is currently sitting out while waiting to negotiate a new deal that could potentially see him return to Bellator where he was the reigning and undefeated welterweight champion or possibly land in the UFC once the matching rights on his contract are finished next year.

While money will always play a role in contract negotiations, Askren says his goals are a little different than most. He wants to face the best fighters in the world in MMA the same way he did in wrestling for so many years, and right now the top of the mountain lies in the UFC.

"Dana White's in the winning business and so am I. Obviously he's a little gun shy with the last Bellator situation that happened with him and Eddie Alvarez and that whole shenanigans. But at the same time, we're going to try to work something out," Askren revealed when speaking to FOX Sports. "I may sit out the whole year, the whole matching period if Bellator holds me to that.

"I talked to Bjorn (Rebney) recently and they haven't made me an offer that I think, in my mind, is worth me staying in Bellator. I'm waiting for them to come back with something better, but it's going to take a lot because I am not just in this sport for money. I'm in this to challenge myself against the best in the world and right now Georges St-Pierre's the best in the world and that's what I'm hoping for. Hopefully, this is something I can work out for myself and get myself over to the UFC."

Askren has openly challenged the UFC's welterweight champion in the past, believing that his wrestling and mat control are something St-Pierre has never dealt with before and he could be the one to take his title. St-Pierre recently said that Askren was somebody on his radar as an undefeated fighter coming up the ranks, and the former Missour wrestling standout could not have been happier to hear that news.

"That's great, obviously he's the guy I've got my eye on," Askren said about St-Pierre. "He's been the UFC champion for almost as long as I can remember watching the UFC. He's undisputed, No. 1 person in the world so that's obviously who I want to face. I want to face the best in the world. I want those gigantic challenges. I would love to face Georges St-Pierre."

The goal to be the best in the world is what has driven Askren his whole life and that objective stayed the same whether he was competing in wrestling or mixed martial arts. It's the biggest reason why he doesn't believe his future will ever lie in another promotion because the best fighters in the world are competing in the UFC and that's where he wants to be.

"I've fought everyone that they have, I've beat everyone that they have — convincingly. So really (Bjorn Rebney) knows it, I know it, the world knows it, I need to go to a better place with better challenges," Askren said.

As for this weekend's upcoming title bout in the UFC, Askren will be watching with particular interest because he hopes one day to face the winner inside the Octagon. Considering Askren is very familiar with Hendricks from their shared wrestling days as well as his non-stop study of St-Pierre, he knows the two fighters very well and believes there will be a definitive winner when it's all said and done.

"I've actually got Georges winning," Askren said. "I know Hendricks is a hot pick right now, but I'll tell you my reasoning, it's pretty simple, it's that Johny Hendricks conditioning has left me with a lot of doubt. In the Carlos Condit he got terribly exhausted, he was super exhausted in the second round and Carlos' wrestling leaves a lot to be desired and Johny was able to take him down over and over and over again. But he couldn't hold him down so he ended up taking him down like 13 times.

"I feel like he's got this Mike Tyson thing going on in his head, he's going to come out and start swinging hard at Georges and there is a chance he lands something. I think Georges is smart enough to play a good, smart defensive guard early to keep Johny off him, and then Johny's going to get tired from all that effort. Then Georges can do one of two things — he can take him down or he can sit there and jab away at him. So I think Johny's a hot pick right now, but I really see Georges winning that fight."

As for his own career, Askren isn't sitting on the sidelines just waiting for something to happen while his contract is in a matching period. He's staying busy working with new upstart promotion AGON Wrestling Championships where he gets back to his grappling roots facing some of the best on the planet in that organization. He recently called out every top wrestler near his weight class from four-time NCAA champion Kyle Dake to Olympic gold medalist Jordan Burroughs.

Why? Because Askren's not kidding when he says he wants to face the best in the world.

The activity is also good for Askren in mind, body and spirit while he awaits the time when he can get back to MMA. When he does return, Askren promises an even better version than the one that last competed earlier this year. Despite potentially sitting out a year, Askren is confident he's only getting stronger, faster and more dangerous and the top welterweights in the world should be forewarned that he's coming.

"Bottom line ring rust is an excuse. That's all it is," Askren said about the time off. "I waited nine months to fight Karl Amoussou and I think that's the best I've ever looked. Ring rust is something that happens to lazy people, and I'm not lazy."

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