Bellator welterweight Champion Ben Askren is heading towards free agency, and Bellator head honcho Bjorn Rebney is talking about granting him an early release so that he ca go to the UFC. Look for a lot more to come on this, as Rebney may be waiting for a UFC offer to Askren to gauge his value on the open market, but a parting of ways may be imminent. How will Askren fit into the UFC’s crowded Welterweight class?
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Askren is currently rated in the top ten of the welterweight division, and his wrestling pedigree and what he has shown in Bellator, he deserves to be there. The fact is that Bellator’s tournament format, which is supposed to battle test opponents for title fights, has not produced anyone who has even been competitive to face Askren. In his last outing, he soundly defeated then undefeated phenom Andrey Koreshkov, who never threatened him once.
Askren has talked about facing the best in the UFC, and he certainly has the right mindset to compete at the highest level. On his way into the UFC, Askren should be given fights against one or two contenders to test him. Win or Lose the bouts, the UFC doesnt lose playing it hard with Askren.
If Askren comes in and goes 0-2 against Jake Ellenberger and Demain Maia, the UFC can discard him and they wont have to say a word, the message would be loud and clear that Bellator is a cut beneath. If he beats the pair, then they have a proven contender on thier hands.
Askren should be cautious. Former dominant Bellator Middleweight Champion Hector Lombard is 1-2 in the UFC and trying a different weight class. Alistair Overeem came with a Strikeforce belt, but has been rudely awakened by the UFC’s level. Luke Rockhold was another Strikeforce champion who like Askren brings a top level mind game a skill set, and he has started off 0-1 in the UFC with an embarrassing ‘got to show nothing in the fight’ performance against Belfort.
But Askren deserves credit for wanting to test himself. He described staying at Bellator as ‘getting paid to beat up guys I am better than’. In the UFC he will not be able to say that.