Bellator Reportedly Ready to Let Welterweight Champion Ben Askren Leave for UFC

August 22, 2013
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Ben AskrenIt appears that Bellator MMA is ready to let welterweight champion Ben Askren walk away.

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.

“@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.”

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  • Jay Magallon

    Read between the lines, baby. Bellator just isn’t that interested in keeping him. Clearly. I never like to call mma fighters boring cuz they deserve more respect than that, but I’ve watched him fight many times and his style is extremely frustrating to say the least, especially for a guy who’s so mouthy about his skill set.

    • CD

      Don’t think you have the read between the lines, it’s apparently they want nothing to do with him. It’s a shame really, his ground game is very fun to watch since he doesn’t take all the usual angles. Once he figures out how to finish a submission he’ll be very good.

  • TheCerealKiller

    Sorry, no title shot in the UFC for you until you beat someone first. Let’s face it, it’s good to have Bellator around, but it’s the Arena Football of MMA.

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

      I respect Ben Askren and I was kind of hoping he would stay over there a little longer to raise the bar for other fighters. Him and Koscheck would be nice?

      • TheCerealKiller

        Any great UFC wrestler that can neutralize his wrestling. Then we will see if he has any business in the the big show.

        • Ol’ Rooter

          The only problem with your statement, Mr. Killer, is there is no great welterweight wrestler in the UFC good enough to even carry Ben Askren’s jockstrap, let alone out grapple him.

          • sj0623

            Other than gsp or hendricks or maybe even kos. This isn’t folkstyle its mma. you should probable get off his jockstrap.

          • Ol’ Rooter

            You’re right, rim licker, it is MMA. As Askren said, wrestling is the #1 martial art. That’s why all the faggy strikers you love to knob gobble can’t do a damn thing to Askren.

          • sj0623

            your a clown. end of discussion

          • Ol’ Rooter

            You know, you’re kind of ugly, for a broad. It’s over when I say it’s over.

            Now, it’s over.

          • TheCerealKiller

            I’ll remember this and remind you of it after Asskrin gets KO’ed.

          • TheCerealKiller

            How about this, since Nick Diaz only wants to fight champs, offer him Askrin! He is the current Bellator champ, Nick is supposed to have “sick” jiu-jitsu and Maia was able to neutralize Fitch. Diaz won’t have to cry about him running away from him, because Ben doesn’t want to stand with anyone. Whatcha think of that?

          • The guest of guests

            I thought the same thing. It would be one of those things they propose but Diaz would likely turn it down, he’s waiting for the right person at the right time to spark his interest and I don’t believe it’s Funky.

          • Ol’ Rooter

            That would suck. I don’t like to see either one, Askren or Diaz, lose.

          • Lucas Freire

            The problem for Askren is that it’s MMA and not wrestling.
            GSP has a karate base.
            Yet, he outwrestled how many D1 wrestlers?

          • johnathan eisworth

            GSP would show that he is the superior wrestler if they were to fight, not to mention better striker, better g n p, etc.

          • johnathan eisworth

            and rory would destroy him utterly and completely

          • JET

            Really? Watch the youtube footage of Jake Shields (I’m not a fan of his, either) consistently getting the better of Askren while they’re working on their grappling. Askren has the best credentials in the WW division, but he’s not the best MMA wrestler, a la Phil Davis vs. Rashad Evans.

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

          100% agree. I couldn’t imagine him fighting guys like Alves or Hendricks. He needs to stay over in Bellator and continue his dominance before coming over but then again who would turn down the chance to be in the UFC.

      • shakejunt

        i think that’s a bad fight for kos. his eye is gonna be all jacked up again.

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

          I don’t think there’s really any bad fight for KOS. He’s grown so much since being in the sport. Thiago Alves outclassed him with standup. GSP handled his wrestling. But other then that the guy has had nothing but tough fights and hung in there. No way Ben Askren (Who Iam a fan of) can jack up Koschecks eye. I think it would really show where he stands if that fight happened.

  • b-soc

    I agree with Cereal killer. To further that, Askren will be the same as the others….Jake Shields, Hector Lombard, Ovareem, Gomi…..shall I go on?!?! Until you fight in the big league, you shouldn’t even be considered in the top 10.

    • TheCerealKiller

      Can’t wait to see Ben fight a full time fighter that doesn’t work at Target between fights. I would love to see Dana make him go through TUF like Big County and Kimbo.

    • Lucas Freire

      I don’t think Gomi is an example. He just got old. During Pride days, Pride was the big league. Even before going for the UFC he was already on downfall

    • silent_nick

      Yes, but don’t forget other non “big league” fighters who DID have success – Ben Henderson, Anthony Pettis, Donald Cerrone, Carlos Condit, Gilbert Melendez (lost a split decision for the world title).

      It’s hard to tell what will happen with Askren in the UFC. Nobody in Bellator has touched him. Personally I think GSP would have an easy time keeping it standing and jabbing the s*** out of him.

      • BobLemons

        I agree, although in it’s day the WEC was the big league for 155 and under.

        • silent_nick

          Wrong! The WEC was the big league for under 155, not 155 itself. That’s why I didn’t include Faber, Cruz, Aldo, etc. Nobody thought the WEC 155 guys would come in and dominate. Bendo and Pettis were considered maybe top 15 or so, but I don’t think anyone thought Bendo would win the title and succesfully defend it 3 times. And when Guida beat Pettis (by fighting off submissions and holding on for dear life for 15 minutes – sorry, I’m still not over that decision), I don’t think anyone ever thought Pettis would be fighting for the title. Absolutely nobody thought Cerrone would ever get to the point where he was in a title eliminator fight. Hell, I’m a Cerrone fan and even I expected him to come in and lose a couple entertaining UFC fights and get cut.

  • sj0623

    I as a former wrestler, i get excited every time a monster D1 wrestler makes the leap to mma. I was going crazy when I heard about Askren making the move after the olympics and the training videos of him kept me excited with almost no training he was killing veterans on the ground. However everytime I watch him fight I find myself falling asleep. He keeps busy but somehow there is just no action…

    • Ol’ Rooter

      You can blame is opponents for that. All of them thought they could take him out, but once Askren got his hands on them, it was over…AND, his ground and pound is improving every fight.

  • #1mmafan.

    Old news!!! Read this on mma junkie yesterday. Once again weekly is 1 step behind. Wah! Wah! Wah!

    • The guest of guests

      Who cares? Such an mmafan yet you feel the need to comment on who got there first as opposed to what’s in the article. Ben is a boring fighter, although it is surprising how no one has even come close to stopping his humpdown. Jay Hieron was the closest but everyone saw that fight just as I did. Regardless of his style, bring him to the UFC. I’d say give him Brown or Gunnar but I’d like to see them progress otherwise. I’m not sure, give him Kos? Pierce? Woodley? Ellenberger?

      • shakejunt

        i think he’d get a #1 contender fight. i’d hope for rory.

        • The guest of guests

          You’re probably right, those were just a few who i’d PREFER to see him fight first. Rory would be nice but is unlikely to happen due to him not wanting to fight GSP (Askren may get #1 contender bout as Lombard would have had had he dominated Boetsch). I’d like to see him fight the loser of Condit/Kampmann, that would be an ideal UFC welcoming. I wish Konrad wouldn’t have retired, he was a big boy and it would have been interesting to see him against the top. I’d REALLY love to see Mr. Chandler over here, he’s beaten some good fighters in dominant fashion and is on a roll.

    • bajafox

      It was on Twitter even before mmajunkie, what’s your point?

      • #1mmafan.

        My point is in my post. Figure it out bajafox. Or is it Fallon? Yes,that’s what it is. Have a nice day Mr. Wannabe ms.

        • The guest of guests

          Lol you should create your own website that pays close attention to who posts MMA news first and see who gives a sh*t. My guess would be no one.

          • #1mmafan.

            What I find amusing is your comments concerning my comment. This is the 2nd one since yesterday Lol! Here’s a few suggestions for you. #1.take your prozak. #2.contact your therapist and if you don’t have one then save up your mma ppv money and get one. And last but not least, and listen up because this one is important. #3. Stay off social media if you cannot handle what others are saying. I hope that helps. Get better!!!

          • The guest of guests

            What I find amusing is people like my comments because I make fun of you while also commenting on the social media article i’m reading, while they dislike yours or leave it alone because it’s implied to everyone that you’re a moron. Answer this honestly, why do you waste your time with a website like this when you have no opinion on it? You post irrelevant sh*t to the articles so do yourself and everyone else on here a favor and go jerk off to the articles mmajunkie posts first because no one cares what you have to say.

  • Stefano ‘Zwonimir’ Sega Nogaro

    and most interesting thing … he was a bum at olympic level

    • shakejunt

      bormier wasn’t a worldslayer either

      • Stefano ‘Zwonimir’ Sega Nogaro

        indeed …
        I c a lot of people thinking that fighters like Askren or Rousey were world beaters at olympics, while there were and there are tons of better athletes worldwide in their disciplines

  • SHORT_BUS

    “If Ben’s going to go to the UFC, we should speed up that process so he can go fight.”

    Björk said the exact same thing about Alvarez… how’d that work out?

    • TheCerealKiller

      Eddie is exciting, big difference.

  • robc

    Wow, just wow. When an upstart organization shows no interest in not only their champion, a former olympian AND an undefeated fighter, just how boring does he have to be??? Bellator fought tooth and nail to keep Alvarez and yet are ready to let Askren walk? Doesn’t the UFC already have a boring wrestler that doesn’t finish fights as it’s 170lb champ? Watching GSP and Askren fight would be like being trapped in an elevator listening to Barry Manilow for 25 minutes. If this fight happens, Dana will for the first time in UFC history make it a 1 round event!!! I say bring him over, have Clay Guida move up to 170 and the two of them can dry hump each other on a prelim card somewhere in western Canada :)

    • laz

      Why you gotta dog Barry Manilow? That’s just over the line.

  • Timothy Malone

    I’m glad to see Askren has a competitive spirit. He could have stayed safely in Bellator making decent money with little challenge (like a certain lightweight champion) but instead is going to test himself against the best. I wasn’t a fan before, but this raises him a bit in my eyes.

    • TheCerealKiller

      No he couldn’t, Bellator doesn’t want him. Bjorn is listening to the fans that are tired of watching him.

  • mcoope3

    I don’t trust this. Rumors of Askren going to the UFC and competing with GSP raise Askren’s fame and Bellator’s reputation of having UFC-level fighters. Even if Askren and Bellator are both dead set on extending his contract long term, it makes sense for both to dangle the UFC card in front of the media for attention. Maybe if Askren does join the UFC though he can fight Jake Shields at 8PM on a Sunday night to help fans get to bed early so they have a good week at work.

    • TheCerealKiller

      Actually, if you go look at their roster, they are signing mostly strikers. Bjorns business model seems to be working on exciting fights with lots of KO’s.

  • AXE MURDERER

    Askern vs Rory !

  • JDMMA

    I think he’s too small for WW,, eventhough he’d dominating in Bellator… most top UFC WW’s would crush him… perhaps light weight in UFC

    • TheCerealKiller

      You’re right, he always does look a little puggy.

  • Neoconnected

    Ben will get DESTROYED in the UFC. He couldn’t knock out Bruce Buffer….UFC should pass….if Bellator doesn’t want him…why would the UFC want him?