Although it’s been a while now since Bellator CEO Bjorn Rebney made headlines by saying he’d likely let welterweight champ Ben Askren sign with the UFC, there’s a new twist to the story which is raising more eyebrows.
Bellator has the right to match any contract offer that heads Askren’s way, but although the fighter is one of the planet’s best 170’ers, his wrestling based style hasn’t always drawn rave reviews from the masses. Even Rebney has conceded as much.
Although Dana White has said he’s interested in talking to Askren, the UFC President has also blasted Bellator repeatedly for their matching rights and so far, no offer has reportedly been sent “Funky’s” way. So, in a recent report from ESPN.com, here is some of what Rebney had to say about White’s claims, and what it would take to let Askren go.
“If you want to say the best fighters in the world fight in your organization and one becomes available and you have the unfettered right to talk to him, pick up the phone and call him. And if you claim our matching rights are so prohibitive — the exact same matching rights that you have in your agreement — then give him a title fight out of the box, which is not unreasonable given that he’s ranked in the top six in the world, and I’ll just walk away from our matching rights. So I’m making it as simple as I can possibly make it for them to live up to what they claim. Go for it. Or don’t go for and I’ll re-sign him. And if you want to fight the best you can come here to Bellator, train your wrestling like a wild dog, and try to beat Ben Askren.”
So in other words, Rebney is daring the UFC to sign Askren and book him to fight Georges St. Pierre. Is an immediate title shot going to happen though? Probably not. Askren may be a ridiculously tough man to beat, but most ‘UFC only’ fans aren’t familiar with the vaunted wrestler.