Let’s all take a deep breath and stop jumping to conclusions. As of this moment, and for the foreseeable future Bellator welterweight champion Ben Askren is just that, the Bellator welterweight champion. That could change, but then again, maybe not.
Askren (12-0) fulfilled the terms of his Bellator contract when he defeated Andrey Koreshkov by TKO in July of this year. That victory was Askren’s fourth consecutive defense of the title he captured in October 2010.
You would think Bellator would have made at least some effort to keep 29-year old fighter with the organization, but to hear Bellator CEO Bjorn Rebney tell it, the promotion isn’t all that interested in keeping their champion. Speaking to ESPN.com’s Josh Gross, Rebney said:
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. 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 GSP.
If that statement puzzles you, you’re not alone, but before you give yourself a nosebleed pondering why Bellator would be willing to let one of the best welterweights in the world walk away for nothing, step back and look at it from a business perspective.
If Rebney and Bellator really had zero interest in Askren, why would Rebney even feel the need to comment at all? The easy thing would be to offer an “I can’t talk about that” or “no comment” and move on. By planting the seed of disinterest, Askren loses some of his negotiating power with the UFC. If there’s no perceived interest in his services, the odds of a lowball offer from the UFC increase.
When you also consider that UFC president Dana White has not shown much enthusiasm for Askren’s style of fighting, once tweeting, “when ambien can’t sleep it takes Ben Askren. The most boring fighter in MMA history. I would rather watch flys f**k”, well, the market price for Askren may not be sky high.
With all that in mind, there’s a good chance that Bellator rolls in and matches whatever offer the UFC puts on the table for Askren.
As Rebney told Gross, “If the UFC does make an offer, we’ll take a look at it and move on from there.”
Don’t think for a minute that we have heard the last of Ben Askren and Bellator.