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VIDEO: Ben Askren ‘Inside MMA’ Interview Ends Abruptly After UFC Criticism Upsets Kenny Rice

(Looks like Kenny has the 2014 “Shill of the Year” award locked up. / Video via AXS TV Fights)

Friday’s edition of Inside MMA on AXS TV featured a tense interview segment with ONE FC welterweight champion Ben Askren, and has generated controversy not because of Askren’s words, but for host Kenny Rice‘s reaction to them.

The clip above begins with co-host Bas Rutten asking Askren about Dana White’s recent statement that the UFC might consider signing Askren if he keeps winning. Unsurprisingly, Askren wasn’t there to show gratitude to the Baldfather:

Dana, he’s a chameleon. He changes his tune depending on whatever fits the situation. I am definitely not fond of this guy at all. I want the chance to prove I’m the best welterweight in the world, but I don’t know if I’m willing to stoop to his level.”

You’d think that Askren’s unvarnished honesty would please the Inside MMA hosts; after all, this is exactly the kind of thing that would generate publicity for their show. Instead, Kenny Rice begins to chastise Askren for his comments:

Well you’re saying a lot about a $500 million operation, there, Ben. I mean, I gotta be honest, you know it’s always nice to fight windmills sometimes, but to take on verbally with the UFC, this is a battle you can’t win.”

Askren explains that if he plays out the rest of his career in ONE FC and retires happy, he would consider that a win. He then continues attacking the “iffy decisions” recently made by Dana White, which have led to a backlash by the fans. But before he can really get cookin’, Rice interrupts him:

Ben, everybody wants to be in the UFC. There’s nobody that doesn’t want to be in the UFC, basically. And you know, someday β€” you’re the welterweight champ now of ONE FC, you were at Bellator β€” somebody’s gonna ask you, ‘Don’t you want to prove you’re the best in the world?’, and most people will look at the best in the world as being the guys fighting in the UFC.”

Askren responded thusly:

Well 100%, and I don’t disagree with you, and the UFC has created a monopoly-type situation where everyone does have to go there. But don’t think for a second that there’s a lot of employees of the UFC that are not happy with where they’re at, and don’t think for a second that if they get the opportunity to go somewhere else and make a good living and get treated a whole lot better, that they won’t go. Nothing lasts forever, and the UFC has had quite the monopoly the last handful of years, but really, if they don’t change their tune, they’re gonna start losing some fans. Bellator is gaining ground on them, rapidly, ONE FC is rapidly expanding the Asian market. The UFC is worried, andβ€”

This was about as much UFC-abuse as Kenny Rice could tolerate. Rice jumps in to end the interview, saying “we gotta close down the soapbox” and thanking Askren for his time.

“Well you guys can’t cut me off like that,” Askren says.

“Yeah we can and we just did,” Rice says, “but best wishes and congratulations on ONE FC.” And with that, Askren’s image is sucked into the hologrammic vortex beneath the Inside MMA studios.

Askren immediately went on twitter, called Kenny a UFC dick-rider, challenged him to a debate on MMA economics, made his challenge known to Mark Cuban, and accused Kenny of being on the take. Meanwhile, everybody who watched the Inside MMA segment wondered what the hell just happened. An MMA “news” anchor throwing off a guest for criticizing the UFC? Here is your crown, King of the Shills; wear it with pride.

Fortunately, AXS TV Fights CEO Andrew Simon stepped in to do damage control the next day, apologizing to Ben and inviting him back on the show to “continue the discussion.” But what would a follow-up appearance really accomplish? We already know Askren’s position, and we know that harsh criticism of the UFC doesn’t fit in with Inside MMA‘s agenda, for reasons we can only speculate on.

Ben Askren should definitely “continue the discussion” β€” he should just do it elsewhere. Askren is a dynamic, thought-provoking interview, and honestly, Inside MMA doesn’t deserve him.

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