Opinion: The Future of Ben Askren
By Jesse Heitz
Recently, Bellator boss, Bjorn Rebney, made it crystal clear that his undefeated Welterweight Champion, Ben Askren, is unlikely to be resigned. It seems a little curious, particularly given the limited amount of information we have on the reasoning behind such a decision. In a piece published by ESPN, Rebney said that Askren’s level of wrestling prowess in a division far from ripe with premier wrestlers was a determinant in allowing Askren to skip off as a free agent. Rebney stated the following of his admittedly “one-dimensional but totally dominant” Welterweight Champion,
“Until the wrestling game evolves, they’re going to have big problems with a guy like Ben Askren. He does what he does, takes them out of their environment, and that makes for incredibly lopsided fights.”
This sort of reasoning struck me as bizarre and highly unusual, especially as it came from the mouth of a promoter who is desperately trying to latch on to the UFC’s coattails. Not only will he be allowing his Welterweight Champion, a man who steamrolled virtually every notable fighter in that division, to join another promotion with the gold still wrapped around his waist, he’s willing to let him walk into the company Bellator strives to compete with, the UFC. Worse yet, in explaining his reasoning behind opting not to re-sign Askren, Rebney essentially trashed the entire Bellator Welterweight Division.
It’s rather clear that Askren will join the UFC’s ranks at some point in the near future. This even though Dana White once tweeted “when ambien can’t sleep it takes Ben Askren. The most boring fighter in MMA history.” Despite Askren’s less than heart-stopping performances, not dissimilar from any dominant wrestler residing amongst the UFC’s ranks, he may very well make a name for himself in the big show. If so, that’s a clear win. If not, the UFC was able to scalp Bellator’s top fighter and prominently feature his humbling, that two would be a win in the fight against the encroaching rival promotion.
However, just today Askren, as reported by The Bleacher Report, decided it would be worthwhile to textually attack UFC Heavyweight Josh Barnett, their exchange reads as follows,
“Love how the (UFC 164) Countdown show glanced over the fact (Josh) Barnett tested positive for 3 banned substances after Couture fight,”
Barnett quickly retorted stating,
“Did I piss in your cheerios or something or do you just like the view from your high chair? Have fun in obscurity.”
“I won’t even acknowledge VADA. They’re entirely agenda driven and that agenda is NOT sport.”
To which Askren responded by stating,
“I know it doesn’t matter to you, but I can look at myself in the mirror and be ok with choices. In 20 years you will have a very hard time doing the same.”
Barnett finished the discussion with the following two statements,
“Hardly. I lose no sleep at night in the least. You on the other hand have to judge & throw stones just to be relevant. … It must feel terrible knowing that without casting insults my way nothing you say matters. You’re nearly invisible. Rough life.”
“Lastly, go f–k yourself you high & mighty prick. If you want to be famous just come run your mouth next time you see me.”
Maybe, just maybe, there was a much more pressing motivation for Askren’s unfettered departure from Bellator. Perhaps, despite his talent and impressive career accomplishments to date, his attitude and ego are beyond insufferable.