Bellator Fighting Championships on Wednesday announced that its welterweight champion, Ben Askren, will be back in action this season in a non-title fight, while the tournament contenders battle it out for a shot at his belt.
Askren returns to the Bellator cage for the first time since winning the title when he faces UFC veteran Nick Thompson at Bellator 40. The event takes place on April 9 at the First Council Casino in Newkirk, Okla., and will air live on MTV2.
“Ben’s been completely dominant in every fight he’s had under the Bellator banner and Nick has run the MMA gauntlet in his career, fighting everywhere and everyone,” said Bellator Chairman and CEO Bjorn Rebney. “He will be a fantastic test for Ben.”
Askren (7-0) won the Bellator Season 2 Welterweight Tournament, earning a shot at then champion Lyman Good. He won a unanimous decision over Good at Bellator 33 during Season 3.
The fight with Thompson will be his first since winning the belt. Being a non-title affair, win or lose, he will then defend the belt in Season 5 against the winner of this season’s tournament.
“I come to fight every single time. Whether you’re good or you’re bad, I still want to smash you, and it’s going to be the same thing when I fight Nick Thompson,” Askren said. “It doesn’t matter what his record is, I’m looking to kick his ass.”
The former Bodog Fights welterweight champion, Thompson (38-13-1) enters the bout on a three-fight skid, including a loss to Dan Hornbuckle, the man whom Askren defeated in the Season 2 tournament final. Thompson, recently focusing on his legal career, hasn’t fought since fighting for Sengoku last August in Japan.
“I think the biggest advantage for me in this fight with Ben is the fact that I’ve fought more than 50 fights,” said Thompson. “I’ve fought in every organization, I’ve fought against the best fighters in the world, and I’ve been ranked in the top ten. Ben hasn’t been there. I plan on hitting him like he’s never been hit before and I’m excited to find out how he’s going to react.”