UFC lightweight champion Anthony Pettis said he hopes friend and training partner Ben Askren returns to the cage soon and doesn’t get lost in free agency between the UFC and Bellator.
Pettis at a UFC on FOX 9 press conference said Askren is even thinking of “retiring.”
Pettis was asked who among his training partners would one day be a star.
“One guy that’s on the main stage already, but Ben Askren, man,” Pettis said. “He’s like stuck between Bellator, UFC, thinking about retiring. One of the best guys I have ever trained with. His level of wrestling and how much better he’s gotten at striking is ridiculous. One guy I don’t want to see retire and one guy I don’t want to see get lost in between organizations.”
Askren (12-0) has ruled as the Bellator welterweight champion since 2010, defending the title four times in the last three years. The former college wrestling star and member of the 2008 U.S. Olympic team, is a free agent, after his Bellator contract expired in late July.
Since Askren is one of Bellator’s brightest rising stars, it’s not likely that Bellator is going to let Askren walk away to join the rival UFC. When the UFC tried to sign with former Bellator lightweight champion Eddie Alvarez, Bellator sued to block the deal, saying it had a contractual right to match the UFC’s offer before Alvarez could sign with the UFC.
Rather than face a lengthy and costly legal battle, Alvarez re-signed with Bellator. It’s likely that Askren would face a similar fate if he chose to sign with the UFC.
The UFC and Bellator are waging a big-time war for mixed martial arts superiority. Although the UFC is the No. 1 MMA organization in the world, Bellator is owned by Viacom and has attempted to challenge the UFC for the dominant position in the marketplace.
Bellator will hold its first Pay-Per-View on Nov. 2, headlined by Quinton “Rampage” Jackson vs. Tito Ortiz. Bellator has also attempted to re-sign its fighters and lure over UFC stars such as Jackson, Ortiz and Randy Couture with greater guaranteed contracts.