It seemed like the writing was on the wall when Bjorn Rebney was allowing Ben Askren to entertain offers from the UFC. Now it's official: Ben Askren has been released.
The Bellator welterweight champ got his walking papers after his contract expired and Rebney made it known he'd let him walk.
With that, likely one of the biggest free agents has hit the open market. Where does he go from here? In my opinion, and likely the opinion of many others, it should not be the UFC, at least not yet.
The reasoning behind this is simple. He is not exciting or marketable, and I am sure he would require a decent-sized contract at the very least.
Let me start off by saying that Askren, while one-dimensional (as Rebney pointed out), is good at that one thing. He is an incredibly athletic wrestler who snags the takedown almost on demand.
However, once he gets somebody to the ground, it becomes a lay fest. He rarely looks to pass, his ground-and-pound isn't intimidating, and he has yet to display his submission prowess.
The UFC has a number of fighters like this under contract, and they tread water immediately. Sure, Askren is probably better, but the UFC should be looking to make future, marketable champions who have the potential for staying power. I don't see that in Askren.
Imagine if he did get a title fight. Do you think many people would be willing to shell out $50 to see him headline a pay-per-view, whether it be against Georges St. Pierre, Johny Hendricks or whoever is champion at the time?
I know I wouldn't. In fact, I would put the $50 that I would have spent on the pay-per-view down on a bet that says it would be a box-office flop.
Plus, in return for that, he would likely require a decent to hefty contract. If I were Dana White, I would not give that to a guy who isn't worth the value. Askren has earned the right for a good amount of money with his track record, but in the scheme of things, the UFC should not invest that money in him right now.
I am not saying the UFC should never get on the Askren train, but I would let him do some work in other promotions first to prove he can at least show a smidgen of excitement. Sure, he is a great heel, but this isn't pro wrestling, and fans like to see good, exciting fights. They don't like to watch wrestling matches.
Bellator has become a storage locker for UFC castoff talent. The UFC should try to avoid doing the same with Bellator fighters, even though Askren's track record is better than most of the UFC castoffs who have headed to Bellator. Plus, the UFC welterweight division already abounds with wrestlers, so Askren would just be adding on to that high number.
Until he shows signs of all-around improvement or more impressive finishing acumen, I say let him wander the lower shows for a tad. If he continues to win, beat credible opponents and show a tinge more of excitement, then the UFC can welcome him aboard.
Right now just isn't the right time.