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Bellator content to let champion Ben Askren go to the UFC

Bellator content to let champion Ben Askren go to the UFC

Bellator put up a significant fight to keep lightweight Eddie Alvarez on the organization’s roster, going so far as to file suit as a means of staking their claim to the former champion’s rights. Interestingly enough, it doesn’t look like the promotion will make a similar effort when it comes to retaining the services of unbeaten welterweight title-holder Ben Askren.

Askren’s deal with Bellator recently expired and, based on recent statements from CEO Bjorn Rebney, it appears the 29-year old’s time in the company has as well.

“I don’t think we’re going to make an offer at this point. So I don’t see any reason to make anybody sit out,” said Rebney in an interview with ESPN. “If Ben’s going to go to the UFC, we should speed up that process so he can go fight. I’d love to see Ben versus Georges St-Pierre.”

While Rebney respects Askren’s abilities, he doesn’t believe fans are thirsting for takedowns and top control.

“Until the wrestling game evolves (fighters) going to have big problems with a guy like Ben Askren. He does what he does, takes them out of their environment, and that makes for incredibly lopsided fights,” explained Rebney. “I have nothing but good things to say about Ben as a fighter, but we’re all very aware of how he fights and what he does — it’s not for everyone.”

Askren has won all twelve of his tilts since transitioning from a decorated career as a wrestler including an Olympic run. During his nine-fight run in Bellator he beat the likes of Lyman Good, Douglas Lima, and Karl Amoussou. Despite criticism regarding Askren’s approach to victory, “Funky” has finished his last two opponents via TKO including one stemming from a lopsided performance against Andrey Koreshkov in his most recent match-up.

  • SBERG says:

    After all that crap with Eddie and they’re just going to let their undefeated champ leave. Man they better hope putting Eddie on that PPV sells for them. Oh wait he’s the “co- main event”. Forgot about that. I just don’t understand Rebney at this point but whatever, it’s his ORG he can do as he pleases.

  • Brendhan Conlan says:

    Ben Askren gets a bad rap. Sure, he takes opponents down and grinds his way to victory a lot of the time. But he’s constantly active on top. He pummels people; his blanket is soaked with starch, not water.

  • AlphaOmega says:

    I wonder if a little bit of this isn’t damage control, they just got Eddie to agree to fight again, but he’s still not happy in interviews, how will it look if they now enter another massive legal battle with one of their champions coming off of the Eddie thing?

  • Angry Mike says:

    It’s purely a business decision, imo. Nobody in Bellator can beat Askren, but fans aren’t excited by his wrestling based style. As I recall, he was booed in his last fight even though he completely dominated Koreshkov. So now the question is whether White wants him in the UFC. Maybe not; White may think he’s John Fitch 2.0, and White didn’t like Fitch.

  • fanoftna33 says:

    I have only seen Askren fight once but I would say he is no more boring than more than a few UFC fighters, so he has one main skill so does Maia and people love him. I admit Ben is a work in progress but he is great at what he does and I would love to see him fight a top guy in the ufc soon.

  • Brendhan Conlan says:

    Askren’s also a good trash-talker for marketing purposes. Reminds me of a smaller Chael Sonnen.

  • MCM says:

    Remember in the old Bugs Bunny cartoons when something completely insane would happen and one of the characters would bounce around yelling “Cuckoo, cuckoo!” and flick their lips and say “ah bee da bee da bee da bee.”? That’s seems like the only logical response to Belatore’s business decisions lately.

  • Richard Stabone says:

    Eddie is the whole package — top-tier talent, still in the prime of his career and–most importantly to these promoters–a guy with solid name recognition who always brings a fan-friendly style to his fights. In other words, he’s an important building block for an MMA organization. Askren is more of a nice-to-have.

    Accordingly, Bellator fought tooth & nail to keep Eddie, and that type of fierce competition drives up the price tag (good for fighters; not so good for UFC/Bellator). I think it’s safe to say all involved parties learned some things during that whole fiasco.

    So now with Askren, what would Bellator gain by loudly proclaiming their desire to keep him? I don’t believe Bjorn when he says they don’t intend to make an offer, but I can understand why they would try to lay low and let things play out a bit.

    Who knows how strong of a play the UFC will make for Askren, but either way Bellator is better off sitting back & playing their cards close to the vest, while waiting to see how many chips the UFC kicks into the pot. Bellator is sitting on the button… they get to make the last play.

    I’m sure Bellator has some figures in mind for what they feel Askren is worth. If the UFC comes in low, Bellator can swoop in and meet/beat the offer (as I understand it, the UFC doesn’t get to re-raise). And if the UFC makes an offer above Bellator’s comfort zone, then Bellator will lose a fighter they’d probably prefer to keep but that they consider to be more expendable.

  • SBERG says:

    If Rebney is playing wolf in sheeps clothing this is going to end bad….It’s not just Askren but a question of organizational leadership.Throwing out what he just said and then possibly being full of crap just to see what UFC will do is like pulling the pin on a hand grenade and just holding it afterward assuming it won’t blow. MCM is dead on here…this is live Looney Tunes…..
    “TH-TH-TH-TH-TH-That’s all Folks”

  • Richard Stabone says:

    Like I said, I just don’t see the downside. Askren is at the point where he can test the open market, and Bellator will ultimately have to decide whether to match or let him walk.

    If they act like they aren’t interested, it gives Askren less leverage when negotiating with the UFC, which in theory should lower his price tag, thereby giving Bellator a better chance to match the UFC’s offer.

    Of course, the UFC realizes this too. They don’t want to outbid themselves, but they probably would like to snatch up Askren from Bellator so they can’t come in too low with their offer either. This is an interesting little three-way between Bellator, the UFC and a fighter.

  • darth_irritable says:

    Didn’t Bjorky pig say much the same thing when Eddies contract expired?

  • SBERG says:

    Askren needs UFC more than UFC needs him. No one fighter is bigger than the UFC brand. Bellator is not on UFC’s level in any way shape or form. Rebney just seems to have this fascination that he can bang with the big dog in the yard and he can’t. So let’s say he matches a offer from UFC for Askren, you really think the MMA fans are going to want to watch Bellator that much more?
    Well they have had him for a bit now and the ratings don’t say so. Heck fight master might not even be renewed because of the lack of interest. They’re hoping that moving that to Thursday night at 11, Yes I said 11 following TNA is going to save the show. OYE!!!! No organization has the financial power to challenge UFC over the longhaul, I don’t care what major company(Viacom) behind the scenes is backing them.
    The guys that get hurt most are the fighters who risk being stuck in a second tier org because of a match clause that keeps their potential pay down and caliber of opponents down in the prime of their careers. I’ve said in separate articles that the match clause Bellator is using will come back to bite them in the ass with potential fighters who might think about going elsewhere to try to make it to the UFC faster. And then we have Tito and Rampage….Double OYE!!!!


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