Remember the old adage: Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me?
That's something for Ben Askren to consider when he reads today's reports that Bellator figurehead Bjorn Rebney is planning on letting his welterweight champion waltz on over to the UFC in the middle of his current restricted free-agency period. In fact, Rebney says they have no plans to make Askren an offer, so there's no reason for Askren to wait out the matching period.
ESPN's veteran reporter Josh Gross spoke to Rebney about Askren on Monday:
"I don't think we're going to make an offer at this point," Bjorn Rebney, Bellator MMA chairman and CEO, told ESPN.com. "So I don't see any reason to make anybody sit out.
UFC president Dana White confirmed his interest in speaking with Ben Askren.
"If Ben's going to go to the UFC, we should speed up that process so he can go fight. I'd love to see Ben versus GSP," Rebney added, referring to Georges St-Pierre.
If all of this sounds familiar, well, it's because Rebney said something very similar regarding Eddie Alvarez back in 2011.
“I know that (the UFC) have had a lot of interest in Eddie for a long time. I think win or lose, Ed’s probably going to make that decision,” said Rebney in an interview with MMAFighting. “God bless him, he’s been awesome for us, and win lose or draw, he’ll do incredibly well if he ends up going to the UFC.”
If Askren is smart, he'll take anything Rebney says with a grain of salt. He says the organization is based around tournaments, except when it isn't convenient or when he needs something resembling a former pay-per-view draw to headline his first foray into paid television events.
As my colleague Jonathan Snowden so aptly put it this morning, the facade is slipping:
The facade is slipping. Sports based MMA promotion has failed at the marketplace. If it hadn't, Rebney would be doing everything he could to sign his best fighter. Instead, because Askren's style isn't always fan friendly, he's letting the wrestler walk. That's not "real sports."
Askren's style is not the most fan-friendly in the world. He'll never be mistaken for Leonard Garcia. But Askren might be the second-best welterweight in the world. He might even be the guy who will beat Georges St-Pierre. And Bellator is allowing him to waltz over to the competition because—and I am only assuming this is the reason—Askren is a boring fighter.
Not all sports are exciting. There are football teams in the NFL that run fast-paced offenses, and still others who seemingly subscribe to the old three-yards-and-a-cloud-of-dust philosophy. But at the end of the day, they're still sporting organizations like the one Bellator is claiming to be.
They don't hand out title shots (except when they do). They won't feature pay-per-view draws just to pull a pay-per-view rating (except when they do).
If Rebney and Viacom allow Askren to walk over to the UFC without so much as a whisper, they're even dumber than I thought they were.
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