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Duke Roufus says Ben Askren is a pawn in the war between Bellator and the UFC

Bjorn Rebney and Dana White are the real players in the MMA game according to trainer Duke Roufus and his fighter Ben Askren is just a pawn on the board.

Bellator CEO Bjorn Rebney recently made headlines by declaring that he would release his Welterweight champ Ben Askren from any matching options in his contract if the UFC gave Askren an immediate title shot. Ariel Helwani had Askren's coach Duke Roufus on the MMA Hour yesterday and got Roufus' take on the ongoing contract issues Askren faces:

"I feel like at times [Askren]'s being used as a pawn from one promotion to the other, personally," Roufus said. "I mean, if [Bellator] doesn't want him, let him go. I would love to see that fight happen, for sure. But Georges is talking about retiring, for one. Two, in order to make a title fight at welterweight in the UFC, they need footage to promote Ben, which they don't have.

"Bjorn's got to know it's a very hard asking for Dana, ‘let's do this,'" he said. "Realistically you need footage and a contender fight. Where do we get the footage of Ben Askren in the background to promote this? Because Bellator owns this, and another TV company owns this. There's a lot of things behind the scenes that just couldn't happen. It's weird, because [my] fighters are like my children. A week ago, Ben was down. He gets this told to him, he's happier than a kid on Christmas.

Though there would appear to be logistical problems with Rebney's offer, the concept of having a fighter fresh from Bellator get an immediate title shot is not wholly unprecedented. Bellator's last big free agent, Eddie Alvarez, was to be granted an immediate title shot when he signed a contract with the UFC last year. That was before Bellator, who had first right of refusal, ended up matching the offer (which became a battle between Alvarez, Rebney, lawyers and contractual language for the next several months).

"Who doesn't (want to see Askren in the UFC)?" he said. "That's the thing -- I don't want to be in the CFL. No, I want to be in the NFL. No disrespect to Bellator, they put out a great product, but the UFC with the fighters, nobody wants to be the NABC champion, they want WBC boxing champion. It just is what it is. I mean, there's going to be No. 1."

Hopefully Askren won't spend too much of his youth sitting on the shelf trying to free himself from Bellator's sticky sticky contracts.

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