It’s Dana White’s chess move.
Bellator CEO Bjorn Rebney said he would waive all matching rights to Ben Askren and let the the Bellator welterweight champion sign with the UFC if the UFC would give Askren an immediate title shot.
So far, the typically loud White is atypically silent.
Askren told ESPN in an interview that Rebney called him last week and told he would let him go if the UFC would give him a shot at UFC welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre.
“He just called me and said straight up, ‘I think you’re the best welterweight in the world,'” Askren told ESPN.com.
The move is the latest drama between Bellator and the UFC as the two companies tangle for MMA supremacy. The UFC is the biggest, most successful MMA promotions company in the world, but Bellator has made big moves in the last year to challenge the UFC, including signing Quinton “Rampage” Jackson, Tito Ortiz and UFC legends Randy Couture and Frank Shamrock to appear on a weekly reality TV show.
Bellator is also launching its first Pay-Per-View on Nov. 2, where Ortiz will battle Jackson.
Askren appears to be a pawn in the UFC war. Earlier this year Eddie Alvarez attempted to sign with the UFC, but Bellator took the matter to court and argued that it had the right to match the UFC’s offer. Rather than endure a long, painful and expensive legal battle, Alvarez and Bellator came to terms on a deal and Alvarez will likely now never fight in the UFC.
Now Rebney is pulling an old-school, pro-wrestling promoter-style stunt, putting pressure on White to put his champion against Bellator’s champion. Rebney would apparently rather prove to the world, by rolling the dice on Askren, that the best fighters don’t all fight in the UFC, and some of them are actually in Bellator.
Askren has publicly contemplated retirement, while also saying that he wants to fight St-Pierre. White may not take the suggestion seriously. Last month he said Bellator had “no value.”