A lot has been made of Bellator CEO Bjorn Rebney's recent comments about his welterweight champion Ben Askren. Askren, who is a pseudo-restricted free agent, has had his 90-day exclusive negotiation window waived by the organization so he can go talk to the UFC. Rebney said that he wasn't going to make an initial offer, but he also said it wasn't out of the question that they'd match an offer from the UFC either (which is their contractual right).
Brian Hemminger at MMA Mania believes Rebney's statements were a ploy to sign him at a lower price tag, and many share that sentiment. Askren himself was asked about it by Ben Fowkles of MMA Junkie, and while he's glad to get on with things, he knows that the above situation is a real concern:
"I'm happy, more than anything, that they're [waiving] the exclusive [negotiating] period, so now I don't have to sit out 90 days before anything even starts to happen. That's definitely a positive thing."
"Honestly, I think it could be a ploy on their part to get the UFC to make a lower offer, so when they go to match it's not as hard."
He's clear that he wants to challenge himself, but getting paid works for him too if he does end up staying with Bellator:
"I'm fairly indifferent to what [Rebney] said," Askren said. "I got in MMA for one reason: to see if I could be the best in the world. Actually, he's doing me a favor if he lets me go to the UFC and test myself. I mean, I wouldn't be upset that I'm getting paid a bunch of money to beat up guys who aren't as good as me, but I would like those challenges if it's possible."
He said that he believes there's "over a 50% chance" that he ends up in the UFC, and closed the interview with a telling statement:
"I don't know that there are any challenges left in Bellator, so yeah, I think the only challenges for me are in the UFC."