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21 Mar, 2019 19:29

People want me to put Khabib on the ground and shout 'USA' – UFC's Ben Askren (VIDEO)

People want me to put Khabib on the ground and shout 'USA' – UFC's Ben Askren (VIDEO)

MMA bad boy Ben Askren says the public wants him to take down Russian lightweight king Khabib Nurmagomedov in the name of the USA, as the motormouth American doled out his latest barb at a promotion rival.

Askren made a successful – if predictably controversial – UFC bow when he beat former welterweight champ Robbie Lawler via submission earlier in March. That improved his unbeaten record to 19-0, although the American had to survive a massive slam just 10 seconds into the fight, later recovering to tap out Lawler.

Since making the switch to the UFC in a trade from ONE Championship, the 34-year-old curly-haired wrestling phenom has issued call-outs to seemingly anyone and everyone in the ranks in his typically bold, brash style.

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That includes undefeated Russian lightweight champ Nurmagomedov, who Askren says the public in his homeland is willing for him to beat.

“USA versus Russia, I don’t have anything against Russia, I’ve been there, I like it, I love the wrestlers.

“But, people love the USA versus Russia, ever since the Cold War, the hockey games, people love the USA versus Russia,” Askren said in a video for UFC Russia.

“Who am I to rain on their parade? If people want me to fight Khabib Nurmagomedov and get him on the ground and shout ‘USA,’ that’s not me, that’s them.”

Both fighters have prodigious wrestling pedigree, with Askren a US Olympian while Nurmagomedov hails from Dagestan, a land of fabled grapplers.

Askren himself acknowledged the high standard of Dagestani wrestling and across Russia as a whole.

“Which wrestling is better, Dagestan or the US? I don’t necessarily think that’s a fair question, because obviously Dagestan is quite a small region which produces a lot of high-level wrestlers.

“In 2017 the United States won the World Championships, in 2018 Russia won the World Championships.

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“So right now we’re at a point where it’s going back and forth. Hopefully this year the United States is going to win the World Championships of wrestling.”

Despite Askren and Nurmagomedov doing damage in different divisions, the man known as ‘Funky’ recently reiterated his desire to meet the Russian halfway at 165lbs.

“That is something that would be an awesome fight: great storyline, both undefeated, the USA versus Russia thing always plays,” said Askren.

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“And then you also got like the best wrestler in MMA type of thing playing. So you would have a whole lot of angles to play. That fight would be a lot of fun.”

While there are other match-ups for both fighters that would appear more explosive – and far more likely – in their current respective divisions, the clash would certainly be one for MMA’s wrestling purists.

And based on Askren’s assessment, it would likely have the added edge of broader national rivalries too.