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Bellator Releases Welterweight Champion Ben Askren

Bellator MMA announced Thursday morning that they have officially released Ben Askren, making the now-former welterweight champion an unrestricted free agent.

“I’ve said it many times, Ben’s a completely one-dimensional fighter who is utterly dominant in that dimension,” Bellator chairman and CEO Bjorn Rebney said. “I had a number of discussions with Ben and it became clear it was time for both parties to move in different directions. We’ve relinquished any right to match here and Ben can sign with whoever he chooses to sign with. Ben’s been at Bellator since the start of his career, I respect him and what he’s accomplished and wish him the best wherever he goes.”

Douglas Lima will face the winner of the season nine welterweight tournament to crown a new champion in the division.

Askren has been pushing for a contract with the UFC since knowledge of his Bellator deal expiring became public. The 29-year-old is 12-0 in his MMA career and a former U.S. Olympic wrestler.

“I am now free to go to the UFC and beat whoever I want,” Askren posted on Twitter after news broke of the decision.