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Morning Report: Ben Askren credits Jorge Masvidal’s popularity to ‘authenticity’, says that’s why Kamaru Usman ‘can’t get fans’

Morning Report: Ben Askren credits Jorge Masvidal’s popularity to ‘authenticity’, says that’s why Kamaru Usman ‘can’t get fans’

This Saturday, at UFC 251 in Abu Dhabi, Jorge Masvidal will challenge Kamaru Usman for the UFC welterweight championship. This comes on the heels of a 2019 campaign that saw Masvidal claim Fighter of the Year honors while launching himself into widespread superstardom. And according to Ben Askren, Masvidal has him to thank for that.

Masvidal is one of the most seasoned veterans in the UFC, having joined the organization in 2013. But despite his long tenure with the UFC, “Gamebred” had never achieved much in the way of mainstream popularity. But in 2019, Masvidal had one of the most impressive late-career renaissances, skyrocketing his Q-rating with knockouts of Askren, Darren Till, and a doctor’s stoppage of Nate Diaz to claim the one-off ‘BMF’ title. But Askren says that it was Masvidal’s record-breaking knockout of him that really launched Masvidal’s career resurgence.

“I put the spotlight on him,” Askren told ESPN yesterday. “It is (all me). His Twitter followers, his Instagram followers went 5x, I put the spotlight on him. I played the foil to him. I let him shine. Unfortunately, right? I thought I was going to crush him.”

Askren certainly has a case to make. Despite only jumping to the UFC in 2019, Askren immediately became a fan-favorite within the company and was quickly embroiled in feuds with half of the top-ranked welterweights. His fight against Masvidal at UFC 239 was a highly anticipated matchup, and then Masvidal knocked him out in five seconds, a finish which gained massive national exposure.

But Askren is not trying to take all the credit for Masvidal’s stardom. “Funky” says that he provided the platform for Masvidal to ascend, but “Street Jesus” capitalized on it and connected with people for being who he is.

“He says some of these things like ‘three-piece and a soda’ that maybe isn’t intentionally funny but it’s really authentic,” Askren said. “People love that when he says F-ing super necessary, which I feel like he was kind of a douche for punching me when I was already unconscious. I thought that was unnecessary, but he says it was super necessary. And you know what, it is pretty funny. I was the dude that got punched and I’ll say, you know what, that was Jorge being real and that was kind of funny. Even though it was me and I thought he was a douchebag for punching me when I was unconscious, it was kind of funny. So, yes, there is a certain authenticity to Jorge that people really, really enjoy.

“Think about the people who are really popular, they’re very authentic. When they start getting fake, they start their demise. Like Ronda (Rousey). I think she was really authentic in the beginning and then she started having this prima donna thing to her and people freaking hated it.”

Conversely, Askren says Masvidal’s opponent this weekend, welterweight champion Kamaru Usman, is exactly the opposite. Askren and Usman have a long history together, dating back to their wrestling days where the two both trained at the Olympic training center. When Askren came to the UFC last year, arguably his most bitter feud was with Usman, both because Usman was champion and because, Askren says, he didn’t like the new persona Usman had adopted.

“He goes to MMA and all the sudden he has this persona that he’s the hardest dude ever and he’s so cool, and it’s fake!” Askren said. “Everyone sees that it’s fake! That’s why he can’t get fans, because we know it’s fraudulent. It’s not real and that’s why I was so annoyed. That’s not the dude that you were. You came to MMA and you thought you had to be this other person, and people are seeing through it. . . People don’t like fraudulence. They love it when people are authentic.”

But despite his clear respect for Masvidal and his obvious distaste for Usman, Askren still thinks that come Saturday, personal authenticity isn’t going to matter, because while Usman may not be “real” in interviews, he is very real in the cage.

“I would probably lean towards Usman, for sure, but I think there are distinct possibilities where Masvidal will win,” Askren said. “I hate saying it. It pains me to say it but yes, I think Usman is going to win and that’s so annoying.”


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The A-Side Live Chat.

Embedded 3.

The BMF title fight.

Top finishes of Jorge Masvidal.

Anatomy of UFC 251.

Francis Ngannou ripping shots.


Heavy Hands. Breaking down the biggest fights at UFC 251.

Fights Gone By. Discussing the most important fights at Fight Island.


Statement.

Public response.

Talking trash.

Respect.

Accusations.

Wonder what that is.

Call out.

Left out.

No love.

Ready to get back at it.

Contract.


N/A.


Thanks for reading and see y’all tomorrow.


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Richard H. Powell

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