The lead up to UFC 239 has been anything but conventional when it comes to its media tour, especially as that relates to promoting one of the newest stars of the organization. Twice “Funky” Ben Askren has taken to the stage with no opponent in sight.
While it doesn’t exactly slow down Askren’s zingers, Jorge Masvidal's absence does seem to have taken a little steam from Askren's approach. Although that may be the case, Askren hasn’t minded it at all.
“It’s been fine. I’ve made the most of both of my attempts at these events,” Askren told the Top Turtle MMA Podcast on FloCombat. “Seems like it’s generating a lot of interest—obviously there’s a lot of interest in me.”
An added bonus of having no opponent to verbally joust is that it allows Askren more time with other members of the company—most notably UFC head honcho Dana White. Once his biggest detractor, White was seen raising the hand of Askren triumphantly at the last media event.
Even though they appear to be getting much closer, Askren admits this is mostly just an on-stage phenomenon.
“We haven’t really talked outside of the press conferences,” Askren shared. “That being said, I think he likes the fact that I show up to work on a regular basis.”
And just showing up is clearly not the only thing White likes about Akren. As Askren points out, it has a lot to do with his quick rise in popularity.
“I’m not afraid to promote myself and obviously it seems to be that I am pretty popular right now,” he said.
Leaving Askren alone on stage is not all that surprising for Masvidal. You’re unlikely to find press conferences on his list of favorite things to do. However, as Askren points out, it is part of the job.
“And I don’t know why he won’t do his job and show up,” Askren said, with his real answer not all that far off his tongue. “I definitely think I’m in his head. I think it’s obvious in pretty much everything he says and does these days.”
Askren will have to do more than get in his head when they step into the cage this weekend on the main event of UFC 239 on PPV.