When Ben Askren came out of retirement to finally join the UFC roster, it was for one reason only – and it proved he was the best in the world.
With a win against former welterweight champion Robbie Lawler in his debut, the former Olympic wrestler has already positioned himself at the top of the rankings as he prepares to face Jorge Masvidal at UFC 239 in July.
Masvidal has just won a staggering knockout against former title contender Darren Till, making him the ideal opponent as Askren continues to pursue his ultimate goal of competing in the UFC welterweight championship.
"Proving that I am the best in the world is the only goal for which I came back because I was retired. I think that brings me closer to that, "Askren told MMAFighting. "I think the pace is changing, if I beat Jorge Masvidal, I think there's a good chance I'll be titled, and if not, I'm not too far away, I'm pretty damn close."
Former interim champion Colby Covington is the biggest hurdle outside of Masvidal. He was promised the next shot against Kamaru Usman and his welterweight title.
Covington disagreed with the UFC earlier this year after being sidelined in favor of Usman, who won the title with a decisive win unanimously against former champion Tyron Woodley.
Finally, Covington met UFC President Dana White and the two men agreed that he would be the next player to face Usman when he was ready to fight again after undergoing a double hernia operation after his championship win in March.
The problem is that Usman does not expect to return before the end of the year and he even says that nothing is guaranteed regarding the next opponent in his defense of the first title.
What was promised yesterday will not necessarily materialize tomorrow and that's why Askren feels that a strong performance against Masvidal could help Covington to go back without the title being decisive.
"I think it's [possible]Askren said about Covington in the title fight. "I do not think people are interested in Colby schtick anymore. They realize that it's old, that's all, that's all. It's not so exciting. The guy does one of those things where you wait for a title battle and it's something I will never do, ever.
"How long has Colby had his last fight? Last June? What's this mother – she will stay for 16 months and expect a title? The only way to stay relevant in this sport is to stay there and continue to follow it. So yes, if I'm going to beat Jorge, I'm going to have a lot more momentum. And if "Marty" (Kamaru Usman) wants to make money, I'm sure "Marty" has a pay-per-view clause in his contract, you're absolutely certain I'll sell a lot more money. Per-views against him that Colby would not do it. "
Askren never hesitated to take shots against Covington, whom he called to fight almost immediately after signing his contract with the UFC.
Even if this fight could still take place one day, Askren simply does not understand the logic of staying away for more than a year and hoping to maintain your position while others. division fighters are trying to win.
"It's a long time sitting in the strength of the mind," said Askren. "Colby had a small operation and if you remember, Colby had the opportunity to fight" Marty "in January of this year.
"I do not know why he stays seated. He should have understood that it was probably not a good strategy and a different strategy. "
Beyond all, Askren knows he could sell a fight against Usman and that it would give more money to the UFC bank account. That's why he believes the title could be his with a win on July 6th.
"I do not see why not," said Askren. "In the end, what the UFC sees more than anything, it's dollar signs and right now, when they look at me, that's what I present."