Bjorn Rebney's solution to the Ben Askren problem is creative, but is it smart
"It's simple," Rebney told ESPN. "It's straightforward. There's no back talk. No back track. No game to it. It's as simple as that."
It sure sounds simple, at least when you put it like that. It's just that these things have a way of getting complicated once the gears all start to turn.
The basic premise (from Rebney's stated viewpoint, anyway) is that Askren is the world's best welterweight. If he goes to the UFC, he'll become the 170-pound champ. In the process, he'll also have demonstrated that Bellator champs are just as good, if not better than UFC champs. It probably also doesn't hurt that, in the process of proving this, Bellator will have gotten rid of a fighter deemed "ridiculously one-dimensional" by Rebney and merely very boring by most of the MMA viewing public.
Once he's champ, then Askren would be the UFC's problem.
That's one way it could go. Of course, Askren might also turn out to be not quite as good as Rebney thinks. He might get mauled by UFC welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre, and then Rebney will have handed UFC President Dana White all the evidence he needs to prove his claims of overall roster superiority.
And consider what we know about White for just a second. Think there's any chance he'd handle that victory graciously? Think there's any chance he doesn't spend the next decade bragging about it every time Rebney's name is uttered? Not likely.
But then, maybe it's only a gamble if you think there's any chance the UFC will take him up on the offer. The UFC is not an organization known for an eagerness to let outsiders dictate terms, especially when it comes to title fights, and Rebney knows it. Maybe this is one of those offers you make because you want other people to hear you making it.
It also seems like it could be an offer contingent on terms that are difficult to enforce. What happens if the UFC accepts, agrees to give Askren an immediate title shot, but – oops, wouldn't you know it? – the champ got hurt and is going to be out a while. Here, fight another top contender while you wait.
Askren likely wouldn't care too much. That guy would fight a tiger if you told him that you'd just overheard the tiger bragging about his takedown defense. It's Bellator that would lose out as the UFC gradually assimilates Askren, or else holds him in contender purgatory.
And that's what seems strange about Rebney's offer, is how many different ways there are for him to come out on the wrong side of this. If Askren goes over and throttles GSP or Johny Hendricks or whoever, great. Rebney has proven that he had (note the past tense) the world's best welterweight. The MMA world will have little choice but to admit that fact then (and only then), though I'm not sure it would extend to the rest of the Bellator roster.
On the other hand, if Askren loses, well, it's not hard to imagine that being used against all the champs who stayed behind.
If nothing happens? If the UFC stays quiet and pretends this offer doesn't exist? Then we'll probably end up with the same game of matching offers and legal battles that defined the Alvarez squabble. Put away the gloves, bring out the lawyers, and ring the bell for Round 2.
Maybe I'm just a cynic, but nothing about that sounds terribly simple to me. The more Rebney insists otherwise, the more suspicious I become.
Bjorn Rebney wonders about the UFC's silence on signing Ben Askren
Speaking to Sherdog following Friday's Bellator 103 event, Rebney said:
We'll see what they do. I've heard no response from them at all, which is unusual and an anomaly. I think it puts them in a difficult spot to claim the best fighters fight in the UFC.
Rebney contends that the UFC's claims that the best fighters in MMA fight under the UFC banner is false:
The UFC consistently says the best fighters in the world fight in the UFC. They don't. I believe Michael Chandler is the best lightweight in MMA and that Pat Curran is one of the top-two featherweights in the world. [Eduardo] Dantas is a freak. Askren is in the top six or seven. So, if you're going to make that statement, when one of the top six or seven [welterweights] in the world becomes available, you've got to pick up the phone and make him an offer, or you can't continue to say, ‘The best fighters in the world fight here,' because they don't.
Rebney may be overplaying his hand when it comes to Askren and the UFC. Rebney is obviously trying to pressure the UFC into signing Askren. It's also obvious that if the UFC does not sign Askren and offer him an immediate title fight, Rebney will use that fact to endlessly repeat that all of the best fighters don't fight for the UFC.
Askren should be thankful for all this public banter. If he were to join the UFC the fairy tale would end quickly. Right now Ben, his family and his friends can all share some crazy Kool Aid believing the only thing stopping him from ruling the UFC is the opportunity.
"The UFC consistently says the best fighters in the world fight in the UFC. They don't. I believe Michael Chandler is the best lightweight in MMA and that Pat Curran is one of the top-two featherweights in the world. [Eduardo] Dantas is a freak. Askren is in the top six or seven. So, if you're going to make that statement, when one of the top six or seven [welterweights] in the world becomes available, you've got to pick up the phone and make him an offer, or you can't continue to say, ĎThe best fighters in the world fight here,' because they don't."
Somebody should ask Rebney why didnt he let Chandler or Pat Curran go to the UFC to prove they are the best of their respective divisions. He claims Ben Askren is top 6-7 WW, and wants him to be number 1, knowing that only way he can do that is by going to the UFC, yet he certainly has no problem letting Ben Askren jump promotions and prove his WW status. So by his statement, Bellator was only able to provide enough WW that helped Ben only become a top 6-7 WW. I wonder what rank will he give Kongo should he win the HW tourny and become the champ lol.
Really think the UFC is going to wait and see how the Bellator PPV plays out before they consider offering Askren a contract.
Should they decide to offer him a contract with incentives that Bellator can't match they will be in a much better place to do so knowing the extent of how well the PPV goes over. That and if it goes really poorly they may just be able to wait out the eventual collapse and scoop up the talent they want uncontested.
"I feel like at times [Askren]ís being used as a pawn from one promotion to the other, personally," Roufus said. "I mean, if [Bellator] doesnít 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 donít have.
"Bjornís got to know itís a very hard asking for Dana, Ďletís do this,í" 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. Thereís a lot of things behind the scenes that just couldnít happen. Itís weird, because [my] fighters are like my children. A week ago, Ben was down. He gets this told to him, heís happier than a kid on Christmas."
Though there would appear to be logistical problems with Rebneyís offer, the concept of having a fighter fresh from Bellator get an immediate title shot is not wholly unprecedented. Bellatorís 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).
Asked if heíd like to see Askren fighting in the UFC, Roufus said itís a no-brainer.
"Who doesnít?" he said. "Thatís the thing -- I donít 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, thereís going to be No. 1."
WOW! bjorn rebney is such a great guy! such a selfless act what a hero!
White declines to offer Askren a Bellator-contract releasing title shot
Bellator welterweight champion Ben Askren is currently a free agent. However, Bellator CEO Bjorn Rebeny does not particularly eager to keep him on the roster, and said recently he would release Askren from his contract with the organization if the UFC offers Askren an immediate title shot vs. the winner of George St-Pierre vs. Johny Hendricks.
UFC president Dana White was not impressed.
"They're playing f---ing games," White told MMAjunkie.com. "I don't care what they're doing. It doesn't matter to me."
"I don't give a s--- what they're doing. They don't matter and I don't care."
White's final remarks on the matter were not reassuring for the Askren camp.
"When you're willing to let your f---ing champion go, it's weird," said White.
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