“Was I signing him? No, I don’t think so. Not me,” UFC president Dana White responded just five days ago when asked if he was making any progress in acquiring Bellator welterweight champ Ben Askren (pictured).
Well, in a somewhat unexpected turn, Bellator issued a press release Thursday stating they will allow the restricted free agent to sign with any organization he wants.
“I’ve said it many times, Ben’s a completely one-dimensional fighter who is utterly dominant in that dimension,” expressed Bellator CEO Bjorn Rebney. “I had a number of discussions with Ben, and it became clear it was time for both parties to move in different directions.
“We’ve relinquished any right to match here, and Ben can sign with whoever he chooses to sign with. Ben’s been at Bellator since the start of his career. I respect him and what he’s accomplished and wish him the best wherever he goes.”
However, does Bellator’s about-face on Askren change anything with the UFC’s stance? Sure, there’s no longer any red tape to deal with – unlike when Eddie Alvarez became a restricted free with Bellator, only to return to the promotion after realizing he was going to lose the lengthy legal battle – but Rebney’s backhanded compliment of the wrestler pretty much says it all.
“Ben’s a completely one-dimensional fighter who is utterly dominant in that dimension” – reading between the lines, Rebney is essentially saying Askren has rode his phenomenal wrestling skills to a perfect 12-0 record (with half of his wins coming via decision) en route to capturing the Bellator welterweight crown, but the, as White likes to call it, “wrestlef***” style he executes simply isn’t marketable.
That’s why Bellator let him walk and the UFC will likely let him linger. Welterweight has always been one of the UFC’s deepest division, so they’re in no hurry to bring in a guy who could very well bore their ticket-payers to tears. We all know how quick UFC fans are to bombard lay-and-prayers with boos.
Let’s be real, Bellator probably decided to let Askren go when they realized the UFC had no interest in signing him.
Obviously, the now-unemployed Askren is itching to prove his mettle inside the Octagon.
“I am now free to go to the @UFC and beat whoever I want,” Askren tweeted following this morning’s news.