Opinion: Intrigue Over Bellator CEO Bjorn Rebney’s Strange Ben Askren Offer to the UFC
By Michael Hatamoto
Bellator CEO Bjorn Rebney’s claim he would waive welterweight champion Ben Askren’s matching rights if the UFC offers him an immediate title shot after he’s signed is foolhardy, though UFC executives don’t seem to be taking the bait.
Rebney runs Bellator, the No. 2 MMA promotion in the United States, and is constantly bombarded with questions regarding the UFC and its business practices. Likewise, UFC President Dana White and other executives are routinely asked about Bellator, especially after several high-profile fighters ended their careers in the UFC and re-emerged in Bellator.
Despite the majority of top-level MMA talent signed to the UFC, Rebney continues to put together rather entertaining fight tournaments. Sometimes, Bellator needs to get a bit creative with its marketing efforts, and offering to waive Askren’s matching clause could be a good strategy.
Askren is a dominant champion and no one on the Bellator welterweight roster poses a real threat to him, and Askren already said he wants to test himself in the UFC. However, the UFC isn’t likely going to make an agreement like that – White and company mentioned Bellator’s contract structure is the reason fighters find it difficult to abandon ship.
I think it would be great to see the Duke Roufus-trained welterweight in the UFC, though his wrestling-centric fight style isn’t thrilling. The fighter has a 12-0 record and six of those wins are by decision, and has shown a great ability to force opponents to engage with him on the ground.
Even if GSP gets by Hendricks and requests a fight with Askren, I still don’t know if the UFC will be inclined to sign the Bellator champion.