“When Ambien can’t sleep it takes Ben Askren. The most boring fighter in MMA history.
I would rather watch flys f**k” @DanaWhite, April 16, 2012
Oh, how a year’s time can change the mind of UFC President Dana White. Despite his previous twitter proclamations, it seems that the world’s largest promotion is interested in acquiring the services of Bellator welterweight champion Ben Askren. While the UFC lost the Eddie Alvarez battle, their war against Viacom and Bellator is just heating up.
Askren is currently viewed as one of the faces of the promotion, showing utter dominance en route to his current 12-0 record. He’s the kind of homegrown star that Bellator has always looked to build upon. However, if the UFC gets its way, the champion won’t be with his current employer much longer.
It was revealed that Askren’s most recent fight, a four-round clobbering of fellow unbeaten prospect Andrey Koreshkov, was the last on his current contract. Bellator may have come to terms with Alvarez, but the UFC isn’t done trying to enlist the services of their star talent.
Dana White spoke of Askren at the recent UFC Fight Night 26 pre-fight press conference, stating “we’ll talk to him.” Coming from a man that just over a year ago wrote him off as the “most boring fighter of all-time,” this has to be an encouraging sign. Not everyone loves the smothering style that Askren employs when utilizing his Olympic wrestling background, but no one can argue that he doesn’t have the skills to compete in the UFC. The real question has always been “just how good is he?”
And herein lies the problem for Askren and other Bellator fighters who fancy themselves the “best in the world.” There’s only so long you can be a big fish in a small pond before you elect to really see what you’re made of in the big leagues. Bellator certainly has some top talent in Alvarez, Chandler, and Askren, but an undefeated record against lower tier “contenders” will never push them into the coveted top-10 rankings, let alone best in the weight class. The UFC knows they have this on their side as they enter negotiations with free agent fighters, and it gives them an intangible advantage that no amount of financial incentive can match.
The courtroom drama that accompanied Eddie Alvarez’s signing with the UFC provided an ugly example of what a fighter can expect if they test the waters of free agency, but there is only so much opposition they can put up before Bellator begins to harm their own brand in the eyes of their fans and fighters alike. We will wait and see what sort of an offer the UFC will make, but it looks like another contract dispute is in the works.