Bellator welterweight champion Ben Askren recently made his fourth successful title defense as he defeated Andrey Koreshkov at Bellator 97 in the fourth round.
After the fight was over, Bellator MMA Chairman and CEO Bjorn Rebney and Askren both confirmed that it was the last fight under his contract.
Rebney recently told TheMMAReport.com that they were currently in an exclusive negotiating period with Askren and could fast track the situation to allow Askren to get an offer from the UFC.
Askren (12-0) and his management team have remained quiet on his free agency status but Rebney spoke to Josh Gross of ESPN.com and stated that he didn’t think they would make an offer at this time. Also, Rebney stated that he would love to see Askren face UFC welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre.
After the story was published, it seemed like the mixed martial arts community felt that Bellator was ready to let Askren walk free. However, later in the same story, Gross had a quote from Rebney that stated Bellator would look over any offer that Askren receives from the UFC.
“If the UFC does make an offer, we’ll take a look at it and move on from there,” Rebney told ESPN. “We haven’t been proactive yet. I have nothing but good things to say about Ben as a fighter, but we’re all very aware of how he fights and what he does. It’s not for everyone.”
For me, this is the Eddie Alvarez situation from nearly one year ago. After Alvarez defeated Patricky Pitbull at Bellator 76, Alvarez became a free agent but had an exclusive negotiating period with Bellator. Alvarez and his management team told Rebney that he wanted to see what the UFC was going to offer so Rebney speed up the process to allow him to get the UFC offer quickly.
This is exactly what is happening now. Bellator is going to allow Askren to go out and get the best offer he can from the UFC. Once he accepts an offer from the UFC, his management team will then send the contract over to Bellator. Bellator will look over the deal and will make their decision rather quickly on whether they want to match the deal or decline to match and let Askren head over to the UFC.
While some people may think that Bellator will just let Askren walk free, I am not one of those people. Bellator gave Askren an opportunity in 2010 as he was immediately placed into the season two welterweight tournament. They have seen Askren grow into the fighter he is today, so why would they just let an undefeated champion walk away for free?
The question with the UFC and Askren is how much will they offer him? Will they offer him a deal like former Bellator middleweight champion Hector Lombard or something in the range of what they offered Alvarez?
Everyone will agree that the UFC is not going to offer Askren the type of deal they gave Lombard. Will they offer him a similar offer that Alvarez agreed to? That is the question and will the UFC make an offer that Bellator is unwilling to offer. If the UFC wants Askren in their welterweight division, they may have to overpay for his services which is a good thing for the fighter.