When Bellator President Bjorn Rebney said he would let his welterweight champion, Ben Askren, walk freely to the UFC if he was guaranteed an immediate title shot at UFC welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre, it raised many eyebrows.
Was he actually serious? Is he really willing to let Askren walk? Is this just a trick to lure UFC into making a counter bid?
Regardless, Dana White isn't willing to play that game. Speaking with the assembled media for UFC 166, per MMA Junkie, the UFC President completely dismissed Rebney's stance. "They're playing ****ing games. I don't care what they're doing, it doesn't matter to me." On top of that, he questioned their willingness to let Askren leave at all, saying "When you're willing to let your ****ing champion go, it's weird."
The biggest loser in all this, of course, is Askren himself. Askren is a supremely talented fighter, and his wrestling pedigree is one of the best in MMA. One of his teammates, UFC lightweight champ Anthony Pettis, stated he was pondering retirement due to the enormous struggle that leaving Bellator behind involves (Askren would later deny those claims).
Askren is technically a free agent at this time, but Bellator owns a year-long period where they are allowed to match offers made to Askren from other promotions. In the past, they have demonstrated a distinct willingness to use this clause to limit fighters' options when trying to leave the promotion, which has been seen with former lightweight champ Eddie Alvarez and Brazilian bantamweight Tyson Nam.
Few believed the UFC was ever even pondering giving Askren an immediate title shot, due to his lack of UFC experience, the glut of high-level welterweights and the relative lack of fan familiarity with him. Rebney's offer did nothing to change that.
Askren's future remains uncertain, but he has been keeping busy. While he continues training at Roufusport MMA, he will be headlining Agon Wrestling I, a PPV event that will show off amateur wrestlers.
At the very least, that gives Askren a paycheck as he lingers between promotions.