Ben Askren believes there’s huge value in staying active inside the Octagon — even if it’s against unranked opponents.
The biggest example is Khamzat Chimaev who only debuted in July but has become an overnight star after fighting three times in 50 days and calling out pretty much everyone on the roster.
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That is one of the reasons why Askren found it odd that new signing Michael Chandler refused the opportunity to fight Islam Makhachev on short notice at UFC 254 this past weekend.
“That actually made sense to me. I’m not sure why he didn’t do that,” Askren said on the Schmozone Podcast. “… You know what I would say? Number one, he’s [Chandler] been fighting for a long time. He’s not going to change that much. Number two, if you look at the people who became popular really recently are people who can get themselves in the cage very frequently. You look at Izzy Adesanya — he fought a whole bunch of times leading up to his title run. You look at Chimaev — same thing, he fought three times in 50 days.
“There’s something about being in the cage over and over and over again, people getting used to you and familiar with you that is hugely valuable to you as a fighter and your popularity and in turn, how much money you’re going to make in the company.
“… I thought that would be interesting. I thought that would be a good storyline. Because then you know, obviously I didn’t know Khabib was going to retire, because then you have this, ‘hey, I beat Khabib’s training partner and his protege.’ You have the whole thing going on. You have that, ‘hey, I took this fight on seven days’ notice, I don’t really need to train, I’m going to beat these guys up.’ So I thought it would have had a lot of positive things going for it.”
Chimaev is now notably set to face the #3 welterweight contender in Leon Edwards on December 19 in what will be his first fight with a ranked opponent. A win there could see him potentially earn a title shot four fights after debuting for the promotion in July.
And that is one example of the benefits of staying active according to Askren — and why more fighters should look to compete against unranked fighters.
“Guys, you don’t get paid based on what the other person is ranked. You don’t,” Askren added. “The more frequently you can get yourself in there, the better off it’s going to be. Listen, if he beats up the number eleven guy or the number three guy, he’s going to get the same amount of money.
“And theoretically, if you’re fighting lower-ranked people, it should be easier to get wins. So I don’t really see this whole, ‘I can only fight people if they’re ranked,’ I never ever understood that for the life of me and I still don’t get it.”
It’s certainly an interesting point. But on the flipside, fighting unranked opponents doesn’t always lead to a title shot (and in turn, more money) in the long run, especially in stacked divisions such as lightweight.
You can watch the full podcast below: