Ben Askren Happy with Bellator but Still Wouldn't Mind Wrestling GSP for Charity
Bellator welterweight champion Ben Askren is not a fan of holding his tongue whenever he's asked about any particular subject.
Whether he's on Twitter taking a jab at himself while critiquing a less than stellar fight, or shooting a quick message to UFC welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre when discussing their mutual wrestling talents, Askren doesn’t mind stirring the pot.
His no-holds-barred style of talk has earned him an outspoken reputation, but it's a welcome respite from the cliche ridden interviews that have become a trope in sports journalism.
Askren's tendency to speak his mind can also sometimes land him in hot water with the people that are signing his checks.
In 2011 in an interview with MMAWeekly.com, Askren said that eventually he would hit a glass ceiling with his current promotion and would have to move to the UFC one day.
Now it’s just a matter of time. Because since they bought Strikeforce and obviously Pride’s no longer around, or any other viable Asian promotion, I mean that’s it. I’m on the top of Bellator and I’m ranked 15th in the world, and so I think every single person above me is either in the UFC or Strikeforce, which is essentially all UFC. It’s just a matter of time.
Now when that subject is broached again, Askren is a bit more tactful in his response.
"Bjorn [Rebney, Bellator CEO] didn't like that comment too much," Askren said with a laugh when speaking to Bleacher Report recently. "So I will say no comment on that matter."
Askren is one of a handful of champions at Bellator that've been with the promotion for several years, literally building their careers alongside the fledgling operation. When he came to Bellator, Askren wasn't far removed from competing in the Olympics, and only had a few fights to his record.
Still, Bellator took a chance on him and Askren will always be appreciative that they did. Loyalty means something to Askren, and he says Bellator has always treated him pretty well, but like any employee there are always changes that could make things better.
"Honestly it's been pretty good. They gave me a shot, I was 3-0, I had three fights and no one else was giving me a shot at that point. That was back when Strikeforce was obviously still in full swing at that point. Obviously, I'm grateful for that," Askren said. "I was able to go in there and win the tournament and get a title shot, and I had been fighting for a year and three months. That doesn't happen very often."
"Now that I've been in mixed martial arts a little longer, I'm 28, going to be 29 next week it's like okay let's get these fights popping off. I was kind of annoyed by this one because they were saying maybe you'll get to fight in April and then they said maybe June, and then they pushed it all the way back to July 31. It's been more than six months since the day of my last fight, so I would like to be fighting more often."
Askren is also no dummy when it comes to his long-term financial security either. He's watched fighters like Eddie Alvarez and Michael Chandler get big offers from Bellator to secure their services, and one day he knows it's going to be his time to head to the negotiating table.
His asking price probably won't be much different than any champion, and Askren knows that as long as he's winning fights, the leverage stays in his corner.
"I'm happy where I'm at. There's going to come a point before too long where I'm going to have to renegotiate my contract, and we'll see how that all goes," Askren stated. "That will be a big determiner, is Bellator going to treat me right and treat me the way I should be treated, or are they going to try to pull a fast one on me? That is yet to be seen so I guess we'll find out."
Back in 2011 when Askren openly flaunted a desire to face UFC competition, it all came down to taking on the best fighters in the world so he could prove he sat among them. He still has those same aspirations, but with new competition coming to Bellator every day, he's confident there will always be somebody new to push him.
As far as his long-standing desire to face the likes of St-Pierre?
Well, worse case scenario Askren would love to get the chance to see GSP on the wrestling mat in an exhibition match, perhaps to benefit the ongoing effort to save the sport in the Olympics.
"I'm all for the exhibition matches, I've done three or four of them, been pretty successful in them," Askren commented. "I'm always ready to step on the mat for whatever challenge. That's it, I'm ready, let's put it out there."
Askren's next challenge will come on Wednesday night, when he faces Russian Andrey Koreshkov in a featured bout on Spike TV. If there hasn't been much talk about Koreshkov from Askren, it's safe to say he's not too worried about what the prospect brings to the table.
"Andrey Koreshkov is not well rounded, he's been taken down and mounted and has his back taken by Lyman Good, which tells me he's a terrible grappler. He isn't well rounded. He's a good striker, but that's it," Askren said. "I fight with good strikers every day. Is he as good as Anthony Pettis' striking? No, it's not even close and he's probably not as good as Anthony Pettis is on the ground either.
"He's going to get taken down right away and he's going to get beaten up. There's not really anything he can do about it."
It's that kind of brutal and unabashed honesty that will continue to put Askren in the headlines, and if his fight record keeps mounting, he's going to be knocking on St-Pierre's door one day soon, as the top welterweight in MMA that he hasn't faced—UFC or not.
Damon Martin is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report and all quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.
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