Earlier today, Bellator CEO Bjorn Rebney released a statement that the company would be relinquishing their matching rights on Welterweight champion Ben Askren. The former Olympian has spent most of his undefeated career with the promotion. 9 of his 12 bouts have been contested under the Bellator banner. He completed the last fight of his contract in July with a TKO win and his fourth successful title defense.
Instead of re-signing with Bellator, Askren chose to seek work elsewhere. Bellator released him of his exclusive negotiation period. However, no offer ever came from the UFC. There was some speculation during this time that neither Zuffa or Askren wanted to end up in the same situation as Eddie Alvarez. But, now with Askren released of his obligation to Bellator, UFC president Dana White says he's not interested:
Dana in scrum: no interest in Ben Askren. I feel sorry for the people who are stuck in that shithole.— Ariel Helwani (@arielhelwani) November 14, 2013
Dana says Ben has some work to do. "He barely beat Jay Hieron."— Ariel Helwani (@arielhelwani) November 14, 2013
Askren is currently held by many as one of the very few top 10 fighters outside the UFC. He's undefeated and coming off two consecutive finishes. I find it hard to believe that the UFC has absolutely no interest in bringing him into the fold. More likely, Dana and the brass are waiting to be sure Askren is officially released of any legal obligation to his former employer. Additionally, deriding his accomplishments helps lower his market value, especially without having to face competition from a big backer with deep pockets.
We'll see what the future holds for Ben in the coming months, but my guess is that his next fight will be in the Octagon.