Ben Askren is stuck in a kind of limbo.
This is what happens when Bellator Fighting Championship allows your contract to expire and then tells you to go get an offer from the UFC. They could allow Askren to leave, as he so clearly wants to do, or they could match the UFC's offer and keep yet another fighter who does not want to be on their roster locked into a deal he doesn't want to be in.
According to Askren's Roufusport teammate Anthony Pettis, Askren is considering retirement if he isn't allowed to go to the UFC.
"One guy who is on the main stage, ready, is Ben Askren," Pettis said during a recent UFC on Fox 9 press conference. "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."
If Askren elected to retire, could you blame him? He's utterly dominated nearly everything Bellator has thrown at him, and the one guy who gave him a modicum of trouble (Jay Hieron, who nearly bested Askren in a 2011 split-decision loss) already went back to the UFC and has been cut.
If forced to remain in Bellator, Askren would be staring at a landscape devoid of interesting opponents. Put simply, his best and brightest future is in the UFC, and that's where he wants to be. Whether that's where he'll end up is anyone's guess.
But Askren says he's not thinking of retirement yet, mostly because he still has a major career goal: to beat up UFC welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre.
Here's what Askren said during a brief Twitter spree on Thursday night:
Once I figured out GSPs dark place didn't really exist I knew he would be easy prey!— Ben Askren (@Benaskren) October 4, 2013
Seriously though GSP in 2009 prob would have beat me, but this current version fights way too scared!— Ben Askren (@Benaskren) October 4, 2013
As you can see, Askren is making his feelings quite clear: He no longer wants to be in Bellator, and he wants to face the UFC's champion.
But that's the goal of every welterweight in the world, as it should be. The UFC is the biggest show on earth, and painting Bellator as even a distant competitor to the UFC is difficult at best, and downright laughable at worst.
Who wins this fight?
Every fighter wants to be there; the next time someone starts out their career by saying, "I can't wait to be a Bellator world champion" will be the first. It just doesn't happen.
And so you can't blame Askren for considering retirement, or not considering retirement, or even considering the possibility of sitting out Bellator's matching period (likely one year, the industry standard) and then becoming a true free agent. That's the only way Askren can take Bellator out of the equation; by sitting out until the matching period expires, he takes the power out of their hands.
After all, they've already shown a knack for keeping fighters against their will. There's no sense in Askren falling into the same trap.
Jeremy Botter is Bleacher Report's Lead MMA Writer. Follow him on Twitter. All quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.