Ben Askren made his UFC debut at UFC 235, defeating former UFC Welterweight Champion Robbie Lawler by first round submission.
Controversy would rear its ugly head in that encounter, as Lawler popped right up after supposedly being out cold and never tapped out either from the bulldog choke.
Nevada State Athletic Commission (NSAC) Executive Director Bob Bennett issued the following statement on the controversy after the event (via Steve Marrocco & John Morgan of MMA Junkie):
“You could see it right in front of us that when Herb picked up his hand, his hand just dropped, which would be indicative of him being out. And then he went ahead and grabbed his hand again, and it moved ever so slightly. There was no doubt in our mind that he was out. If you’ve ever been choked out, if you’ve ever been knocked out, there’s times when you know you’ve been choked or knocked out, and there’s times where you say, ‘What the hell happened?’ And I was never a professional fighter, but I’ve had it happen to me. With the NSAC, our No. 1 priority is the health and safety of the fighter. In our pre-brief fights, I specifically instruct our referees to make sure we stop the fight one punch or one kick sooner than one punch later. Robbie’s a phenomenal warrior. He’s been in the business for quite some time. He was clearly out. If you were sitting where we were, which you were on the opposite side of where we were and anybody that follows boxing knows that sometimes that can be critical in making a decision, and Herb decided to pull the plug and say he was submitted. You may say, well, Robbie jumped right up and said, ‘Hey, what the (expletive) man, I was good,’ or words to that effect. Kudos to Robbie because he was the consummate professional, came to whatever understanding they did, and congratulated the opponent. I can tell you right now as the executive director and on behalf of the commission, none of us had a problem with that.”
Lawler and UFC President Dana White were keen on the idea of a rematch, which is something Askren immediately shut down.