I think we’ve all been expecting something like this for a while, but I never thought Bellator would just release their longest serving champion and effectively gift wrap him for another promotion.
Sure, Askren isn’t exactly box office gold, with his wins largely earned via wrestling displays which are only of interest to dedicated grappling enthusiasts but he is undefeated, dominant and had been coming into a line of stoppage victories.
Perhaps trying to avoid another expensive PR disaster like the situation with Eddie Alvarez (which worked out pretty well in the end) Bellator have cut their losses and tried to make it seem like they aren’t standing in Askren’s way of going to the UFC.
For a company trying to make it seem like they are on a par with the UFC, just meekly handing over an undefeated, if not exactly popular fight is a strange way to go about it.
It reflects badly on Bellator’s whole Welterweight division and scouting network effectively saying ‘we don’t think any of you can beat this guy who stinks up our main events, and we don’t think we can find anyone who can either!’
Whoever reigns as the new Bellator Welterweight champion (to be decided between current tourney winner Douglas Lima and the winner of the Season 9 tourney final featuring Rick Hawn and Ron Keslar) will have to deal with the question ‘would Askren have ground him out like everyone else?’
For me, there’s a lot of fun fights for Askren in the UFC, with plenty talented grapplers like Demian Maia, Jake Shields, Jake Ellenberger never mind Johny Hendricks or Georges St-Pierre waiting to test his all round MMA game at the highest level.
So, I really hope Askren gets picked up by the UFC, I’m just amazed that Bellator have gone out if their way to look small time about it…