Bellator CEO and president Bjorn Rebney told revealed via Twitter that he has released former Bellator welterweight champion Ben Askren from his contract, and Askren is now an unrestricted free agent. Here’s what Rebney wrote: “I’ve made the decision to release Ben Askren. After speaking with Ben, it was clear it was a good time for both parties to move on. “We’ve relinquished any right to match and Ben can sign with whoever he chooses to sign with. I wish Ben the best wherever he goes.” This is obviously good news for Askren, as he is now free to sign with the UFC. And I fully expect UFC president Dana White to be making him an offer to fight in the Octagon very soon. However, I don’t agree with the notion that Askren deserves an immediate title shot. While I really like the guy as a fighter and respect his talents, you’re telling me he should just stroll into the UFC coming off a win over Andrey Koreshkov and jump over all the other contenders in the UFC and get a title shot? No way. No way in hell. Just like Hector Lombard and Jake Shields in the past, it’s only fair for all parties involved for Askren to get a No. 1 contender fight and introduce himself to the UFC fans. Right now, there aren’t many casual fans who know who he is, and there’s no way people that haven’t seen him fight are going to want to want to pay $50 bucks to see him fight for the belt. So I’d like for the UFC to introduce him to the fans with a fight against either Jake Shields, Dong Hyun Kim, or the winner of Josh Koscheck vs. Tyron Woodley. All of those fighters are ranked right around the top 10, and all of them have good wrestling skills. If Askren can come into the Octagon and take any of those guys down and beat them up just like he has been doing to all those poor souls during his undefeated run in Bellator, then we’ll know he’s for real. But for now, at this moment, we can’t assume that Askren is going to dominate opponents in the UFC like he did in Bellator because, let’s face it, the quality of wrestlers in the UFC welterweight division is much higher than what Askren has fought during his tenure in Bellator. So yes, he was able to take down guys like Douglas Lima at will, but what happens if Shields stuffs his takedowns? We don’t know much about Askren’s striking, and while we can assume it’s passable based on his training at Roufusport, we don’t really know. And that’s exactly why you let him fight a top contender and don’t get him an immediate title fight in his Octagon debut. I’m excited to see Askren in the UFC because I think he has the potential to make a run for the title. But let’s temper out expectations, because there’s been so many times in the past where he assumed a fighter from outside the UFC would come in and win the title immediately. So let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves with Askren — it’s only fair to him.
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