It seems that for whatever reason, Bellator MMA is allowing their welterweight champion Ben Askren to be snatched up by the UFC.
“I don’t think we’re going to make an offer at this point,” Bellator CEO Bjorn 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,” he added.
It’s a strange move for the up-and-coming promotion, especially considering Aksren’s recent title defense against Andrey Koreshkov at July’s Bellator 97. While they have a solid roster, Bellator has a distinct lack of top ten caliber fighters, and giving up Askren to the UFC will weaken their welterweight division significantly.
However, the change up makes a lot of sense for Askren. He’s fought for Bellator for three and a half years, and has only competed nine times, with two of those fights happening during the first two months of his contract. He’s basically reached the peak of what he can accomplish in the promotion, and a move to the UFC would give him a lot of room to grow his career.
The former Olympian entered the sport with big aspirations, and it seems that Bellator is no longer the place for him to realize those dreams.
“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,” he said in an interview with MMAWeekly.com. “If I put my money on me and GSP 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,” he added.
The fighter recently sent out a tweet indicating his interest in going toe-to-toe with the UFC champion as soon as possible.
“@danawhite hey if @JohnyHendricks gets hurt for November just let me know I’m ready ,” he tweeted on Wednesday.
UFC president Dana White used to be quite critical of Askren’s style, but that’s when he was with Bellator. Now it seems White is interested in bringing the fighter on board.
“We’ll talk to Ben,” White said in a UFC Fight Night 26 pre-fight press conference.
However, he warned that Askren’s controlling, wrestling-oriented strategy may not be as effective once he steps up to the big leagues.
“You can do that in Bellator,” White said. “It’s going to be tougher to do it here.”
However, Askren’s UFC aspirations are not a done deal. White has yet to extend a formal offer, and Bjorn Rebney hasn’t put aside the possibility of re-signing the fighter.
“If the UFC does make an offer, we’ll take a look at it and move on from there,” Rebney said to 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.”
Ben Askren is currently 12-0 in his MMA career, with 9 of those wins in Bellator.