As MMA fans know, Ben “Funky” Askren would love to climb into the Octagon and take on UFC welterweight champion George St. Pierre.
However, with the way his career currently going, the Bellator MMA 170 pound champion would be lucky to simply get a fight, let alone a UFC title shot against GSP.
Funky has been sitting on the sidelines since July of this year, when he last fought and defended his Bellator welterweight belt, as against Andrey Koreshkov. Askren won the fight by way of TKO in the fourth, and with the win, Ben had fulfilled his contractual obligations to the promotion. As such, he was a free agent and hoping to be signed by the UFC.
Under normal circumstances one would figure that the senior promotion would have jumped all over Askren and would have been happy to have him ply his trade in the UFC’s welterweight division. However, that hasn’t happened. To be precise, it appears that the promotion hasn’t even contacted Askren, let alone made him an offer.
More to the point, of late it appears that the UFC has absolutely no interest in the 12 & 0 fighter and former Olympic wrestler, and that Askren seems to have found himself caught between a rock and a hard place, concerning Bellator, the UFC and any “matching rights” clauses in Funky’s Bellator contract.
However, Bellator CEO Bjorn Rebney made it clear two weeks ago, that if the UFC wanted to sign Askren that Bellator would let Ben go, and with no strings attached. The only condition Rebney placed on the deal was that the UFC would have to guarantee Funky an immediate title shot, against GSP.
To that, Dana White accused Rebney of playing games and stated that he wasn’t interested in the subject. He further added that he thought it was “weird” that the promotion would simply let their reigning champion walk out the door.
Of course, the reality is that Rebney’s offer is meaningless, because White is never going to give Askren a title shot in the UFC without him first having proven himself in the promotion. Subsequent to that fact, Rebney’s offer is a moot point.
However, there is another voice to be heard from in the conversation and that’s of the UFC’s welterweight champion, George St. Pierre.
Today, “Rush” weighed in on the subject and said that he would have “no problem” in fighting Askren. In speaking with MMAjunkie.com the champ put it this way:
"Of course; he's a good fighter, undefeated, and yes, if he comes, I'll fight him. No problem. Bring him in; I'll fight everyone. I am the champion and I have no choice, so it's no problem. I'm not afraid."
On this issue, fans should have no doubt that Rush would fight Askren and that he’s not afraid of Funky trying to “lay on top of him” for as long as he pleases. Yes, Ben is a heck of a wrestler and one that seems to be developing some skill with his hands, with his last two wins being by way of TKO, but Funky brings nothing to the table that GSP hasn't seen before and summarily dismissed.
And yes, Askren is 12 & 0 and on a roll, but so too is Rush. The champ is on an eleven fight winning streak, with eight consecutive title defenses to his credit. Further still, Rush has faced, fought and defeated the best welterweights in the world. In terms of comparing opponents, Funky would be at a total loss in the effort.
Regardless of any of it though, Rush has chimed in and given the green light to the match with Askren if it can be arranged. However, as none of this is the champ’s decision, all that really matters is Dana White’s opinion and that’s not likely to change; it’s a no.
From a practical point of view, even if White was of the mind to call Rebney’s bluff and give Askren a title shot, there’s no window of opportunity for it. With fighters such as Hendricks, Condit, MacDonald, Lawler, Brown, Lombard and others in the division, there is always a quality opponent coming up to challenge the champ. As such, Askren is hoping for a great deal in expecting any of these great fighters to step aside for him.
In conclusion, Ben Askren is stuck and has but two options. He can return to Bellator, defend his title and make some cash over the next year, or he can wait it out and sit on the sidelines until August of 2014, when the matching clauses in his contract expire. At that point, he’ll be free to sign with the UFC. However, that could be a big gamble. As it stands right now, the UFC is showing no interest in him and that might not change in a year. White has offered him no guarantees.
An honest assessment of the situation would probably conclude that Ben’s best option is the first one; go back to Bellator, defend his title, make some cash, stay relevant and wait out the clock. As it stands, it would seem to be a much better choice than simply sitting around until next year and hoping that things go his way.