At least that’s the word that company CEO Bjorn Rebney passed along to ESPN.com on Thursday.
Having fought under the Bellator banner since Season 2 in 2010, Askren’s current contract was fulfilled with his most recent title defense. The welterweight champion crushed Andrey Koreshkov at Bellator 97 on July 31, but it evidently wasn’t enough to keep the interest of his bosses.
“I don’t think we’re going to make an offer at this point,” Rebney told ESPN.com. “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.”
The UFC has definitely been on Askren’s radar for a couple reasons: he wants to be the best fighter in the world, and he would like to fight more frequently.
During his three-and-a-half year Bellator tenure, Askren has fought nine times, but three of those fights were in the first two months of that tenure, as he won the Season 2 Welterweight Tournament.
As a former Olympic and world champion wrestler, when Askren entered the mixed martial arts realm, he did so with aspirations of domination.
“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,” the 29-year-old recently told MMAWeekly.com. “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.”
That point may not be far off.
UFC president Dana White, once highly critical of Askren’s smothering, wrestling-based style, is now ready to entertain the idea of signing him.
“We’ll talk to Ben,” White responded during his UFC Fight Night 26 pre-fight media scrum in Boston. He’s not all that sure that Askren’s style, which has amounted to an unblemished 12-0 professional record, equates to the same success in the UFC.
“You can do that in Bellator,” White said of Askren’s limited style. “It’s going to be tougher to do it here.”
The current Bellator welterweight champion appears ready to give it a go, though.
— Ben Askren (@Benaskren) August 21, 2013
“@danawhite hey if @JohnyHendricks gets hurt for November just let me know I’m ready :),” he tweeted on Wednesday, assuming that Bellator and parent company Viacom won’t try to keep him from leaving.
But that’s not a given.
Although Rebney said that Bellator should “speed up that process” if Askren is UFC bound, he didn’t completely close the door on his champion.
“If the UFC does make an offer, we’ll take a look at it and move on from there,” Rebney told ESPN.com. “We haven’t been proactive yet. 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.”