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UFC, Trade, MMA, Ben Askren, Demetrious Johnson, Dana White, ONE

The UFC’s addition of Ben Askren opens up multiple opportunities for Superfights.

The UFC made history today by simultaneously bolstering the Welterweight division and decimating the Flyweights.  Today, Ariel Helwani of ESPN reported that the UFC is nearing a trade with ONE Championship for their golden boy 170lb wrestler Ben Askren.  In return, the UFC will relinquish arguably the greatest MMA fighter of all time, Demetrious “Mighty Mouse” Johnson.

Johnson spent his dominant Flyweight career with the belt around his waist, having defended his UFC Championship a record eleven times consecutively before losing a close split decision to current champion and Olympic gold medalist Henry Cejudo.  He is (by far) the most popular fighter in the least favorite weight class, and diehard UFC fans may have a problem with Dana White’s decision to move on from Mighty Mouse.

From a business perspective, this is an excellent move for both ONE Championship and the UFC.  Ben Askren is 18-0 (1 NC) and has already cleared out all the elite MMA fighters in both Bellator and ONE.  Askren continues to dominate, yet cannot sell fights because he comes out as a massive favorite, and executes accordingly, which is boring to most viewers.

Demetrious Johnson has displayed much of the same over the past seven years in the UFC’s Flyweight Division and has proven time and time again he cannot sell as the main card for a Pay Per View.

Dana White now can match Ben Askren against multiple qualified opponents in both the 155lb and 170lb divisions, and ONE can advertise DJ as their new superstar (along with Eddie Alvarez, who reportedly signed an eight-figure contract with ONE last week [via MMAHour]).  It seems ONE Championship has a calculated plan to compete with Bellator, and potentially the UFC, regarding popularity with the MMA audience.

With the addition of Ben Askren, the UFC receives a top of the line fighter, looking to sign one last multi-fight contract for big money and keep his undefeated streak until retirement.  This leads to multiple options for Superfights:

1.  Tyron Woodley:  The most traditional route, and therefore least likely, for Ben Askren to secure a Superfight would be to have one or two fights against top-5 contenders in the Welterweight division while Tyron Woodley recovers from injury.  If Askren wins, he will be 20-0 and well-known by UFC fans, leading to a terrific, competitive match between two wrestling-based phenoms.

2.  Khabib Nurmagomedov:  If Dana White is not willing to risk another post-fight brawl in a potential rematch between Khabib Nurmagomedov and Conor McGregor, then a full-proof backup plan would be to match a beefed up, 170lb Khabib against a hungry Ben Askren.  This would be a legitimate battle between two undefeated champions, and would essentially sell itself.  Additionally, if any MMA fighter could claim to have a better ground and pound game than Khabib, it would be Ben Askren.

3.   Georges St. Pierre:  GSP seems only to want the Superfight, even relinquishing his first ever Middleweight championship belt in hope to pursue money fights exclusively.  I see GSP fighting the winner of a fight between Khabib and Ben Askren, and this would be a generational wrestling match, where the winner would undoubtedly be the greatest UFC fighter of all-time.

 

Samuel Ryan

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