Bellator ready to deal Ben Askren
If undefeated Ben Askren plans to sign with UFC, Bellator MMA won't stand in the welterweight's way.
"I don't think we're going to make an offer at this point," Bjorn Rebney, Bellator MMA chairman and CEO, 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. I'd love to see Ben versus GSP," Rebney added, referring to Georges St-Pierre.
UFC president Dana White confirmed his interest in speaking with Askren, a member of the 2008 U.S. men's Olympic freestyle wrestling team before entering MMA the next year.
Due in large part to his suffocating "funky" wrestling style honed at the University of Missouri, Askren, 29, hasn't faced much trouble through 12 pro contests. The last one on July 31, Askren's ninth with Bellator, brought about a thumping of Russian Andrey Koreshkov and kicked off the champion's apparently not-so-restricted free agency.
UFC has hosted the best in the world in Askren's class since the 170-pound division emerged as "lightweight" in 1998, which is why he's motivated to fight inside the Octagon. As it stands, welterweights are essentially unable to be ranked No. 1 in the world without winning a UFC title.
Bellator MMA's welterweight division is made up predominantly of strikers who suffer in the wrestling department, which, Rebney claimed, helps explain why the "one-dimensional but totally dominant" Askren mowed over the competition.
"Until the wrestling game evolves, they're going to have big problems with a guy like Ben Askren," the promoter said. "He does what he does, takes them out of their environment, and that makes for incredibly lopsided fights."
Last week, White suggested those sorts of outcomes were possible because of the level of talent lined up opposite Askren in Bellator.
"It's going to be tougher to do that here," the UFC president said.
Askren wouldn't comment on negotiations, but asked if he would fight in November, in reference to Bellator's first pay-per-view, Askren wondered, "Who, against Georges St-Pierre?"
He unveiled a scenario in which Johny Hendricks suffered a broken hand during training, leading Askren to challenge St-Pierre for the UFC title on Nov. 16 in Las Vegas.
"You never know," Askren said. "Crazier things have happened."
As for Bellator's early November pay-per-view, Askren said there was "no chance" he would participate.
Part of the reason Rebney is open to Askren's departure: the fighter's uncertain value as a promotable, bankable commodity. While Bellator chose to extend deals with champions Michael Chandler and Pat Curran before they lapsed, Askren did not receive such consideration. Promoting Chandler and Curran to the top spots in their respective divisions, said Rebney, was now his focus.
"If the UFC does make an offer, we'll take a look at it and move on from there," Rebney said. "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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