UFC is in a down period. Talk about oversaturation or Fox Sports 1 or concussions all you want, but the reality is that the sport is cold because the big fights aren't as big. The stars are less shiny. The fights are less interesting. Fans can get excited when Nick Diaz goes crazy, but crazy only goes so far. UFC needs a matchup that is compelling.
What is so compelling about Georges St. Pierre vs. Johny Hendricks? That Hendricks might land a big punch? That GSP might pound the tar out of him for twenty-five minutes? Big whoop. UFC has sold us that fight a hundred times. Maybe it would matter if GSP was the heel we wanted to see vanquished. But he isn't and it doesn't.
What does matter is Ben Askren. He presents GSP's only fascinating matchup. He is a one-dimensional monster. He wrestles. But that one dimension is like Steph Curry's jump shot or Floyd Mayweather's chin tuck. It has no counter. It beats challenger after challenger. It not only looks unstoppable, but it has been proven unstoppable.
Ben Askren needs to be cageside. He needs to be talked about. Joe Rogan needs to gush about him. Online MMA media need to write about him. Ariel Helwani needs to interview him. And then a fight for the welterweight championship needs to be booked.
A reason for UFC's business slide is their slipshot championship booking. Giving Chael Sonnen and Nick Diaz title shots led to short term boosts, but the overall interest decline is in part due to those farces.
Giving Ben Askren a championship fight for his UFC debut is no farce. Far from it. Some say he should have to win in UFC first. Some say his title fight will draw better if the UFC fanbase has seen him in the Octagon. Some say that an immediate title shot would give Bellator too much credibility. All of Somes are wrong.
Askren receiving an immediate title shot is the best move for business. An immediate title shot will draw better than giving him a title shot in his second or third UFC fight. Not only is it a fresh, unusual thing, but it makes sense. He dominated the Bellator welterweight division. And not in the way that pundits speak about whatever college football team beats up on North Texas State each week. It is in the way that the dictionary describes it: to have a commanding influence on; to exercise control over. Askren commanded and controlled 170 pound fighters in Bellator and he is a champion.
Carlos Condit is fantastic. He deserves a title shot. I wrote a whole essay about it two months ago. But tough times call for tough decisions. Either rush Carlos into a title shot before Ben Askren or have him wait until after. Either way. Askren's first fight needs to be for that title.
If DeWayne Zinkin and the rest of Askren's management team get Askren to the MGM Grand Garden Arena, it will help move the process along. Surely they are still negotiating over money and bonuses and pay-per-view cuts, but UFC is Askren's end game. And Askren is a welterweight champion. And a welterweight championship match is happening on Saturday.
Imagine if Ben Askren were to buy two tickets in section G, row G on StubHub. Section G is the celebrity section. Section G is the section that media members will see in the background if they turn to the right to ogle the Octagon Girls. And if Ben Askren is sitting anywhere in section G, he will be noticed.
Ideally, UFC would make the decision to give Askren an immediate title shot and fly Askren to Las Vegas themselves. But this isn't an ideal world. And sometimes, even if it means temporarily annoying Dana White or spending five stacks on floor seats, managers and fighters have to take risks. Getting Ben Askren in the arena for UFC 167 and giving him an immediate title shot are risks worth taking for all involved.