When Bellator was embroiled in an ugly contract battle with former lightweight champion Eddie Alvarez, I understood that was “just business.” However, the latest move from Bellator CEO Bjorn Rebney isn’t so cut-and-dried.
That move is to tell current Bellator welterweight champion Ben Askren, whose contract expired in late July that he’ll allow him to walk away from Bellator if the UFC steps up and offers Askren an immediate title fight against UFC welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre.
Askren, speaking to Josh Gross said:
He (Rebney) just called me and said straight up, ‘I think you’re the best welterweight in the world’ I thought, OK, where’s he going with this? ‘How about I let you go free if you fight GSP?’
If you want to know Rebney’s end game, he spelled it out for Gross:
If you want to say the best fighters in the world fight in your organization (the UFC) 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.
Is Rebney trying to intimidate UFC president Dana White into signing Ben Askren? That’s what it seems like from where I sit. It’s like Rebney is throwing out a double dog dare to the UFC. The problem with that is White and the UFC don’t need Askren on the roster. It’s unlikely that the UFC will allow Rebney and Bellator to dictate terms or attempt to bully it into signing Askren, or any fighter for that matter.
The only way I can see the UFC accepting Rebney’s offer is if St-Pierre says he wants to face Askren inside the Octagon, and even then, the promotion may decide against inking Askren to a deal. Let’s face it, a lot of hardcore fans will want to see St-Pierre and Askren fight, but there’s really no way the casual sports fan is going to be interested in that fight. I’d guess a number of hardcore fans would opt out of buying the pay-per-view out of the fear that they’ll have to witness a 25-minute wrestling match.
Oh, there’s also the little roadblock in that S-Pierre is currently booked to face No. 1 contender Johny Hendricks in November at UFC 167.
If Rebney thinks he’s going all Godfather here and making White and the UFC an offer they can’t refuse, he’s wrong. They can refuse it, and odds are they will refuse the offer. If and when that occurs, the man paying the price, the man that may be nothing more than a pawn in this little game, that’s Ben Askren. He’s the only one that is going to get hurt, not Rebney, not White and not St-Pierre.
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