ONE FC Welterweight Champion and former Bellator champ Ben Askren was on AXS TV’s Inside MMA last night to discuss, among other things, Dana White’s distinct change of tone towards Askren in recent weeks.
Hosts Bas Rutten and Kenny Rice insisted that, surely, Askren must be desperate to make it to the UFC at some point. Askren was at his outspoken best in the interview, accusing Dana of being “a bandwaggoner” and “a chameleon”, and while Askren stressed once again he was keen to prove his claim to be the best welterweight in the world he wasn’t certain he wanted to do business with Dana White. That was when the spat with Kenny Rice began.
Rice questioned the wisdow of Askren criticising what he called “a $500m operation” and declared that this was “a battle you can’t win.” Do you REALLY think you can make a career fighting in ONE FC, Rice offered incredulously. Everybody wants to be in the UFC!
Askren to his credit responded very calmly, setting out his ambition merely to make good money and retire happy and healthy. For some reason, Rice refused to accept that. As soon as Askren started to suggest that Bellator and ONE FC were starting to eat into the UFC’s market share, Rice began shouting over Askren and terminated the interview. Rice and Rutten ended the segment by dismissing everything Askren had said.
Besides being a pretty good lesson in poor interview technique, poor journalistic standards and general bad manners, Kenny Rice’s comments are worryingly reflective of the prevailing opinion of the UFC’s monopoly. When the UFC has a monopoly as it does, fighters have extremely limited leverage. Someone like Ben Askren has a very limited fanbase to offer the UFC, and being able to make a decent living outside of the UFC is rare. I commend Ben Askren if he has been able to achieve that position – and unlike Kenny Rice, I’m inclined to believe him.
Maybe Askren is fighting a losing battle against the UFC, but it’s not for journalists to pile in and fight on the UFC’s side.