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Bellator Allows Undefeated Welterweight Champion Ben Askren to Walk Away

Posted on by Ken Pishna

Ben Askren-Bellator-478x270Bellator MMA on Thursday released its welterweight champion, Ben Askren, from any further obligation to the promotion, leaving him a free agent.

The Bellator welterweight championship is now vacant until Douglas Lima faces the winner of the Season 9 welterweight tournament. Rick Hawn and Ron Keslar will square off in the tournament final at Bellator 109 on Nov. 22.

Bellator president Bjorn Rebney stated on Twitter that “it was clear it was a good time for both parties to move on.”

Askren completed the fight obligations on his Bellator contract when he scored a TKO stoppage of Andrey Koreshkov at Bellator 97 in July. He was still under a matching period that gave Askren the right to seek other offers, but also gave Bellator the option to retain him if they would match any offer he received.

The decision to release Askren, who maintains an unblemished 12-0 professional record, has been bandied about by Rebney for several months.

“I don’t think we’re going to make an offer (to retain Askren) at this point,” Rebney told ESPN.com in August. “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.”

Rebney then pulled back, offering to allow Askren out of his contract immediately if the UFC would guarantee him an immediate title shot.

When that did not materialize, it appears that Rebney and company determined that it was time to release its welterweight champion, who has held the belt since defeating Lyman Good in October of 2010.

Rebeny has often been critical of Askren’s fighting style, which has traditionally been labeled “lay and pray” by fans and pundits.

Askren is a former Olympic wrestler that is proficient at taking his opponent down and grinding out a decision victory, which he did in the majority of his Bellator fights, although he has two TKO stoppages and one submission among his nine Bellator victories.

“I’ve said it many times, Ben’s a completely one-dimensional fighter who is utterly dominant in that dimension,” Rebney said in Thursday’s statement announcing Askren’s release.

“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.”

Rebeny and Bellator are sure to be criticized for allowing one of its champions, especially one that holds the promotion’s record for most successful title defenses at four, to walk away. Askren, however, appears to be quite pleased at his former employer’s decision.

He told MMAWeekly.com recently, “When I got into the sport, my goal was to be the best in the world, and in my mind, I’m not that far away from it. If I put my money on me and GSP (UFC champion Georges St-Pierre) fighting, I’m betting on myself. I might be the best fighter at 170 in the world right now.

“Obviously, I haven’t had the chance to prove that at this point in my career and, hopefully, at some point I’ll be able to.”

Askren now at least has the option to negotiate with the UFC and sign with them, unencumbered, if he and they choose to work a deal, and that sits well with the former Bellator welterweight champion.

“I am now free to go to the UFC and beat whoever I want.”

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  • Mark McDowall

    I’ve said it many times, Ben’s a completely one-dimensional fighter who is utterly dominant in that dimension,” Rebney said in Thursday’s statement announcing Askren’s release.

    Kinda tough to argue that point. He is one of the best pure wrestlers out there. This is why I don’t think he will fare well against the UFC’s top WW’s. He needs to work on alot of things before he can be competitive in the big leagues. A stint in WSOF might do well for him…

    • taylor2008

      Askren is shooting off his mouth about the UFC and being better than GSP….let him fight in the UFC. Staer him with a fighter that isnt in the top 10 and let him work his way up. I say 5 or 6 of the top 10 beat him.

  • Christina

    Dana White doesn’t like his style so he may not be very welcomed in the UFC. Even if he does get there he probably won’t last long. White has no problem cutting boring fighters.

    • Dellbert

      I’m guessing dana will offer him a very low purse, maybe 5k for first fight that might make the prelim card. Ben Askren is Ben Askren’s biggest fan.

      • toom

        Wow that’s insane askren might be boring to some be he is still a huge draw he’s getting more then 5k

        • Advance*

          Huge draw? If he was a huge draw then the organization where he’s a champion probably would have at least made him an offer. They even waived their matching rights. Bellator showed with Eddie Alvarez that they’ll fight at all costs to keep someone they consider a draw.

          • toom

            I understand what your saying but dana wants will want askren not because he’s top ten but to have him beat and shove it in rebneys face

  • Darin

    Going to the UFC and “an eventual showdown with GSP” are two very different things. There is a reason Bellator isn’t fighting to keep him.

  • Kenny Powers

    He’s boring as sh!t but he is undefeated, he’s a champion and he has the wrestling credentials. He’ll definitely get a shot in the UFC. I say set him up with the winner of Kos/Woodley, or Jake Shields for the most boring fighter in the world championship.

    • Gary Fredericks

      I like Kos and Woodley. Kos has some really exciting fights on his resume….Shields on the otherhand, not so much. His fights are usually the cure for my chronic insomnia.

      • fsunoles10

        go watch him and askren roll on youtube, its insanely exciting and im not even being sarcastic.

    • Obi-Wan Granoli

      KoS would whoop his ass.

  • Ahmaid Ahdoodi

    This is precisely why you should never leave it in the hands of the judges, even if you are an undefeated champion.

    But I am excited to see the possibility of Askren out-laying GSP for five rounds.

  • Bendo’s Abs

    I get the sinking feeling that if Askren signs with the UFC and somehow defeats StPierre that Askren will somehow return to Bellator with the UFC belt. Not that Askren is going to win…

  • Milosc

    Free Eddie!!

  • Shred Man

    I completely disagree with everyone below. Just because Ben is a wrestler first doesn’t make him boring. Any ground guy can watch him and appreciate his grappling ability. He is a friggin Olympian who is on another level when it comes to grappling. Just like when people that say Ronda Rousey is one dementional. She is not, but even if she was, she is a badass when it comes to grappling. Ben is the same way. The only thing is, he won’t fight GSP for the title, because GSP is getting KO’d by Johnny Hendrix this Saturday.

    • Dellbert

      His biggest win is over Lima or Heiron…He has a long way to go before he even breaks onto the main card let alone a title shot

    • Stefano ‘Zwonimir’ Sega Nogaro

      he’s a friggin olympian but an average one, he got steamrolled by every decent cuban or russian he fought at olympic level …
      u can say that his transition to MMA wrestling is great and actually is one of the best in that part of MMA

  • fsunoles10

    i like askren, i also like the fact that he doesnt care what fans think when it comes to his style cuz honestly ive never been a wrestler and im still really impressed with his wrestling to the point i find it really entertaining to watch. you can see him break people in the fight and like i said his wrestling is on such a high level i find myself excited watching him just man handle people. id actually like to see him and gsp fight, not saying he would win but his wrestling i think would make it interesting. would really like to see him and jake shields go at it as well, dont know if yall seen that youtube video of askren and shields rolling but its nuts.

  • Advance*

    The only guy Askren fought with above average wrestling was Jay Heiron, and I thought he lost that fight. Granted that was a couple years ago and I’m sure he’s improved since then. I just don’t think he could even get by guys like John Hathaway or Stun Gun, let alone any fighters in the top 10 that don’t have terrible wrestling. (Carlos Condit)

  • ♞ Castle Black ♞

    I’m not saying he’s boring or cheesy, but rather that he’s one dimensional. He hasn’t had elite level competition yet and on top of that he hasn’t fought since 2010. At this point, in my opinion, he’s a mid level competitor at best.

  • http://www.CombatScienceMMA.com/ CombatScienceMMA

    I would love to see this guy fight Josh Koscheck. He deserves some respect. Everyone is complaining how their tired of wrestlers but that’s what he is. He is a young guy a dominate wrestler who’s working on his striking and submissions still. Everyone can’t be a pure striker. He’s smart too, he’s sticking to his biggest strength and continuing to win. He only has 12 fights and coming to the UFC is the shot he needs to show he can hang with the top guys. The only thing I really disagree with is him saying he’s the best in the world right now. He hasn’t taken on anyone on the level that GSP has fought. Thiago Alves, Jake Shields, Carlos Condit and Nick DIaz are the guys you need on your resume win or lose.

  • Johnny KnockOUT

    Ben Asscream……saw him in person on the main floor at Bellator 97 postfight parading around with his posse of losers. Giant douche. Not personable w/ fans at all

  • Johnny KnockOUT

    Everyone should scroll up to the picture of Ben above…….he’ll have the same facial expression when the ref wakes him up after being knocked out in his first UFC appearance

  • ?

    Remove from feedonce he gets a taste of the talent in the ufc he’ll be begging to go back…