UFC Interested in Talking to Free-Agent Bellator Champ Ben Askren
The UFC recently missed out on landing lightweight fighter Eddie Alvarez following multiple lawsuits that were settled earlier this week when the Philadelphia native re-signed with Bellator MMA in a new multi-fight deal.
The UFC had offered Alvarez a contract after he became a free agent, but Bellator opted to match the rights as part of its original deal with him. The two sides ended up in a brief court battle that ended when they came to terms, and now Alvarez is back in the fold as part of Bellator.
It looks like Bellator might soon be battling to keep another of its top fighters as well. Current welterweight champion Ben Askren is now out of his contract, and it sounds like the UFC might be interested in bringing in the former Olympic wrestler.
While no offer has been made as of yet, UFC president Dana White revealed on Thurdsay that the UFC is interested in talking to Askren about joining the promotion.
"Yeah, we'll talk to Ben," White said following the conclusion of the UFC Fight Night 26 press conference. "We'll talk to him."
Askren is in an advantageous position right now. Not only is he Bellator's champion, he's undefeated as a professional and brings a strong wrestling game in his arsenal. Not to mention he is more than happy to speak his mind and has the personality to help promote his fights.
In 2011, when speaking to MMAWeekly.com, he said that at some point he would have to end up in the UFC if he ever wanted to achieve his goal of being the best fighter in the welterweight division.
"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," Askren said. “It’s just a matter of time.”
Askren later told Bleacher Report that his bosses at Bellator weren't too pleased with that comment, but in relative terms everything he said was true. If he wants to reach the level to face a champion like Georges St-Pierre, it would require a move to the UFC.
While he's been in Bellator, he has literally developed in every fight, evolving from a wrestler to a full-fledged mixed martial artist over the past few years.
It still can't be ignored, however, that he is predominantly able to win his fights by outwrestling his opponents and just punishing them on the ground.
White says if Askren does come to the UFC, those tactics will no longer work as well, but that doesn't mean he couldn't be successful.
"You can do that in Bellator," White said about Askren's style "It's going to be tougher to do it here."
Askren hasn't stated publicly his preference for where his future lies, but he likely has a similar matching period to that of Alvarez, so this free-agency period could take some time to play out.
Damon Martin is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report, and all quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.
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