Bellator President Scott Coker explains why things didn’t work out in terms of co-promoting with ONE Championship to bring in Ben Askren.
Despite initially retiring after a dominant win over Shinya Aoki, it was clear that “Funky” still wanted to compete. The problem was in competition. ONE Championship doesn’t have the higher end welterweight talent that the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) and Bellator have. So Askren found himself with a ONE contract, but no fulfilling bouts.
Bellator & ONE Championship Co-Promotion Falls Through
At first, Coker had hoped to bring Askren on board. The Bellator President soon balked at the idea when he got the sense that Askren only wanted a one-and-done type of deal. When ONE Championship had an idea for co-promotion, the timing wasn’t right as Coker explained on The Fight Guys podcast (via BJPenn.com):
“Well listen, we were approached by ONE [Championship] about doing a co-promotion of some kind with Ben Askren. I told [ONE CEO] Chatri [Sityodtong] the issue really is that we just announced our tournament and we announced all eight fighters. There was a conversation between Ben Askren’s manager and ONE about getting Ben into our tournament. Ben wanted to fight one or two more times then he wanted to retire. Or not fight anymore and go back to retirement. So we moved on. We booked all our fighters and we feel really good about this tournament. It is eight of the top welterweights on the planet. Then I got an e-mail from Chatri that said ‘hey, do you think there is some type of co-promotion you could do with Ben?’ I said to him, ‘unfortunately it is a timing issue because we would do it, we aren’t opposed to it, it is just that now we already launched our tournament and identified the eight athletes,’ it is going to be a year-long tournament so even if I signed Ben, he wouldn’t fight any of the top eight guys for the next 12 months. We just couldn’t work it out.”
ONE Championship decided to trade Askren to the UFC. In exchange, ONE received Demetrious Johnson. Bellator still has its Welterweight World Grand Prix going on, so its 170-pound division certainly hasn’t lost interest.
Do you think Bellator should’ve been more proactive in trying to get Ben Askren to compete under their banner again?