Free-agent Ben Askren has made a lot of noise about his desire to join the UFC and has made it clear he wants a crack at current welterweight champion Georges St.Pierre. For his part, GSP isn’t giving much thought to Askren as he’s preparing for a tough title defense at UFC 167 against the hard-hitting Johny Hendricks.
Askren’s name has been in the news the last few months after Bellator CEO Bjorn Rebney announced they wouldn’t be making a new contract offer to their dominant 170-pound champion. UFC President Dana White has never been a fan of Askren’s wrestling-dominant style, which could be one of the main reasons why he hasn’t been signed.
White also believes that if the UFC were to make an offer to Askren, they would run into the same roadblocks that they did in an ill-fated bid to sign exciting lightweight Eddie Alvarez. So Rebney has come up with a solution. In an interview with ESPN, Rebney stated they would waive their matching rights and would allow the unbeaten Askren to walk away, IF he is guaranteed an immediate title shot in the UFC.
It seems like a simple solution, but there are problems with Rebney’s logic. First off, St.Pierre has to get by Hendricks on November 16th, and secondly what has Askren done to leapfrog past the many outstanding fighters who occupy the UFC’s top-10 rankings?
Askren was a tremendously dominant champion in Bellator. He won the belt in just his seventh career fight against Lyman Good and successfully defended his title four times. Askren, who’s a perfect 12 and 0, was able to grind out victories with impressive ease. He even had TKO finishes against Karl Amoussou and Andrey Koreshkov in his last two fights for the promotion. However, the talent pool in Bellator is a far cry from what the UFC brings to the table.
If the UFC actually were to end up signing Askren, the proper thing would be for “Funky” to have a fight or two in the Octagon to prove that he’s as good as advertised. If he’s so intent on an MMA wrestling challenge, how about an initial fight against Dong Hyun Kim? The tremendously strong South Korean has shown he can grind with the best of them, and also showed that he can pack a punch when he knocked Erick Silva cold at UFC Fight Night 29. If Kim isn’t a big enough name for Askren’s liking, how about somebody like Jake Shields? He rejuvenated his UFC career with a big win over Demian Maia in Brazil.
There’s no doubt that Askren is a handful for anyone at 170 pounds whether in Bellator or the UFC. The four-time NCAA All-American wrestler is as good as anyone in the sport when it comes to that discipline and he is a cardio machine. However, there are just too many talented fighters who’ve earned their stripes in the UFC, to guarantee Askren an immediate title shot against whoever the champ may be after November 16.
While he’s not the most exciting fighter, the ongoing drama as to where Askren will wind up next, has proven to be an intriguing storyline to watch.
Rick LaFitte is an MMA Writer for Rant Sports