While Bellator gets ready to embark on a new path, it seems like they will have to do it without one of their top stars.
For the last few weeks, there have been rumbles in the MMA world that Bellator is not putting much of an effort into re-signing current welterweight champion Ben Askren. In fact, they seem to be fine with him signing with the UFC. Bellator CEO Bjorn Rebney said that the company would not going to “make an offer at this point,” and that if Askren wanted to go fight in the UFC, they would speed up the process.
This comes as a surprise to me, especially since Bellator had put up a lengthy legal battle to keep former 155-pound title holder Eddie Alvarez signed under the Bellator banner. Bellator was also set on re-signing current lightweight champion Michael Chandler. Perhaps by letting Askren walk, they are preventing another Alvarez situation from happening, or perhaps they are waiting to see what the UFC has to offer.
Askren made his Bellator debut in 2010, winning the promotion’s second season welterweight tournament. He defeated Lyman Good to win the title four months after capturing the tournament crown. He has also made four successful title defenses, the most of any of the promotion’s champions.
Still, there seems to be a trend with Bellator champions leaving the promotion without having been beaten for the title. Hector Lombard left the company while he was still the middleweight champion, Zolia Frausto Gurgel was the Bellator Women’s 115-pound champion when she left the promotion for Invicta FC and Cole Konrad retired from mixed martial arts while he was still the Bellator Heavyweight champion.
If Askren does leave Bellator and get signed by the UFC, this would be a good way for the company and Spike TV to use the Bellator C to hype up their Season 9 Welterweight Tournament. After all, what better way to promote a tournament than to have the tournament winner not only the named as seasonal champion, but also crowned the world champion.
With Askren gone, I’m sure there will be several fighters in Bellator’s 170-pound division who will breathe a sigh of relief knowing he is no longer at the top of the mountain.
As for Askren, I am sure he will do fine in the UFC. His wrestling abilities are among the top in MMA and his striking has improved in the last couple of fights. He wants a shot at current UFC champion Georges St-Pierre, but the champion is set to face Johny Hendricks.
Even if Askren does not get a title shot in his debut, all he really needs is that first win to prove that he can stand in the octagon with the best welterweights in the world.
What would you think of Askren moving to the UFC? Answer with a comment below or send a tweet to @alstover.