Ben Askren, seen here during 2008 Olympic Wrestling Trials, may be retiring from MMA.
During a press conference for UFC on Fox 9, Anthony Pettis dropped a bit of a bomb on the assembled media regarding Ben Askren. Apparently the free-agent welterweight, who rose to fame by dominating Bellator's welterweight division, is pondering retirement.
While discussing the recent successes of his Roufusport teammates, Pettis opened up:
"One guy who is on the main stage, ready, is Ben Askren. He's stuck between Bellator and the UFC, thinking about retiring. He's one of the best guys I've ever trained with...I don't want to see him get lost between organizations."
The implications, possibilities and uncertainties with this statement are many.
Ben Askren, for those unfamiliar with him, is the reigning Bellator welterweight champion. He owns a perfect 12-0 record, and has absolutely dominated all of his opponents with his world-class wrestling. His most recent win, a fourth-round TKO over Andrey Koreshkov, was the last on his contract with the promotion, making him a free agent...more or less.
While fighters like Jake Shields and Hector Lombard established themselves with major promotions and joined the UFC without incident, one of Bellator's star lightweights, Eddie Alvarez, was involved in a major controversy with the promotion earlier this year. This was due to an ugly legal battle (coupled with a downright vitriolic war of words) between the two parties involving Alvarez's desire to join the UFC.
The conflict arose over matching rights, which involves a contractually stipulated period of time where Bellator would be allowed to trump any offer floated towards Alvarez and retain his services as a fighter. Bellator would force Alvarez into settling, but the conflict drew the ire of many fans and fighters.
Askren, like Alvarez, finds himself at the mercy of Bellator's contract at the moment.
That said, this could also be a ploy from Askren as well. Askren and Pettis are long-time teammates and friends. Pettis floating the idea that Askren is willing to retire if his financial demands aren't met is a strong tool for boosting offers from suitors.
Regardless, Askren is a supremely talented welterweight. It will be quite interesting to see how his free agency pans out.
You can check out the full press conference here.