Bellator CEO Bjorn Rebney wasn’t surprised the UFC passed on his outgoing welterweight champion, Ben Askren. By not making Askren an offer, though, Rebney believes the UFC failed to live up to its own billing.
“It didn’t follow the philosophy that the UFC espouses,” Rebney told the Sherdog Radio Network’s “Beatdown” show. “It didn’t follow their tagline, and it was too bad that they didn’t even make him an offer. I understand if they’d made him an offer and Ben turned it down, but to not even make the No. 6-ranked guy in the world an offer, then stop saying the best fighters in the world fight in the UFC.”
Askren was undefeated and won nine fights in three years with Bellator. He was unable to reach a new deal with the company, though, which then released him to begin negotiations with other promotions. UFC President Dana White apparently wasn’t interested. Instead, he accused Rebney of playing games and suggested Askren hadn’t fought good competition.
Askren has since signed with the Singapore-based One Fighting Championship. If he had signed with the UFC, though, Rebney thinks he would have dominated.
“He’s insanely one-dimensional, ridiculously one-dimensional,” Rebney said. “He just happens to be better at that dimension that anybody who steps foot into a cage or Octagon in the last decade. He’s the best wrestler we’ve seen in MMA potentially ever. The reality with Ben Askren is that the UFC didn’t want a one-dimensional Bellator champion being champion of the UFC, so they shied away from him, and then they’ve gone radio silent on him, trying not to engage in conversation because they don’t want the conversation to continue. Ben Askren would have run the table at  at the UFC. Ben Askren ran the table here; he would have run the table there.”
Rebney said he would have “loved” to re-sign Askren, but it didn’t make sense from a business perspective. However, he didn’t rule out the possibility that Askren could one day return to Bellator.
“One of the things that I don’t do is I don’t say, ‘This will never happen. That will never happen. This guy’s gone and gone forever,’” Rebney said. “Because as you can see with Dana, then you’ve got to go back on all those statements and you lose complete credibility. So yeah, look, if Ben Askren runs the table in One FC and he’s available in a couple of years, we’ll talk to him.”
Listen to the full interview (beginning at 1:48:09).