Bellator needs to re-sign its welterweight champion Ben Askren. At a time when Bellator is kissing away significant amounts of cash to sign old-timers such as Tito Ortiz and Quinton “Rampage” Jackson, locking up Askren’s contract should be a no-brainer.
First of all, he’s their champion. Don’t let your champion walk away with your belt. Next thing you know, Askren will be on an episode of UFC Fight Night tossing his belt into a trash can, Alundra Blayze-style. Askren may not be the most exciting fighter out there, but the undefeated former U.S. Olympian is one of the best.
Bellator should be shouting to anyone who will listen that Bellator is where the greatest MMA compete and that the company will sign Askren because Bellator is where he belongs. Some people have speculated that Bellator is trying to trick the UFC by not offering a contract renewal to Askren. If Bellator does nothing, UFC will make an offer, and then Bellator can jump in and top it. If Bellator bids first, it could turn into a costly bidding war.
Whatever the reason, it just looks bad that Bellator is not leading the charge to sign Askren. He’s one of their top guys. He’s been the champion for three years and has defended his title four times. Askren, like Eddie Alvarez, is one of those rare fighters who grew up in Bellator. Askren is a Bellator guy.
Bellator CEO Bjorn Rebney should be telling the world that if Georges St-Pierre wants to fight the best welterweight in the world, he can come to Bellator and fight Askren.
Instead, we get Bellator showing little or no public interest in signing Askren, which devalues Askren’s drawing power, and runs the risk of having the UFC steal one of its top stars.
A year from now, Ortiz and Jackson will probably be small players in the Bellator world. Askren, however, could be one of the centerpieces of the Bellator brand if they doesn’t let one of the best fighters in MMA slip away.