This morning when everyone was dreading the thought of waking up for another Thursday, Bjorn Rebney logged on Twitter to make a rather surprising statement regarding Ben Askren’s status with Bellator. In short, Askren is now an unrestricted free agent which essentially means he’s been released from Bellator and he is free to join any MMA promotion without Bellator having a contractual obligation to match his offer.
<div align=”center”><blockquote class=”twitter-tweet”><p>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.</p>— Bjorn Rebney (@BjornRebney) <a href=”https://twitter.com/BjornRebney/statuses/400989451058286592″>November 14, 2013</a></blockquote>
<blockquote class=”twitter-tweet”><p>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.</p>— Bjorn Rebney (@BjornRebney) <a href=”https://twitter.com/BjornRebney/statuses/400989637285392384″>November 14, 2013</a></blockquote>
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A few months ago in a Sunday Morning Rumor Mill, MiddleEasy predicted that when Ben Askren completed his fight contract on July 31, 2013, Bellator wouldn’t immediately extend his contract and that he would be released as a conditional free agent. We also stated that when he was released, UFC would offer him a drastically reduced contract and Bellator would then match that offer and accept him back into the organization at somewhat of a discount from his previous contract. Well, we were wrong about the latter — and we’re pretty surprised.
When Eddie Alvarez attempted to evade the ominous grip of Viacom after his last fight with the promotion on October 12th 2012, he got on Twitter and Ariel Helwani’s ‘The MMA Hour’ to reveal the ‘injustices’ of Bellator and disclosed how other fighters have also been treated by the promotion. A few days later, Eddie published a letter from Bellator’s attorney that included subtle word changes that weren’t made apparent to him (or his management team).
Around that time, Bleacher Report dug up the proposed contract offered to Eddie Alvarez by ZUFFA (which had him fighting UFC champion Ben Henderson). After we did the math, Eddie could have pulled in a cool seven-figure pay day from his UFC debut.
Of course all of this was nullified when Eddie Alvarez was forced to go back to Bellator under a contract that included PPV points on Bellator’s first PPV venture with Rampage vs. Tito. Unfortunately things didn’t go as planned when Tito pulled out of the fight due to a neck injury and the entire card was regulated to a free Spike TV show. Alvarez’s new contract also included a clause that if he did win in his rematch with Michael Chandler, he would stay for one additional rematch and if he lost, he was free to go UFC.
With today’s release of Ben Askren by Bellator, we all knew it was coming but never did we think it would be completely unconditional. Perhaps Bellator had enough of the fans considering them the antagonist and they realized that if a fighter no longer wants to be in the promotion they should unconditionally be let free. Just look at Rampage Jackson for example. He voiced his distaste with the UFC while fighting in the UFC and when he was released from the promotion, he had no resistance from Dana White when he signed with Bellator.
Although we wish the same tactic would have been applied to Eddie Alvarez a few months ago, Bellator unconditionally releasing Ben Askren seems to give the promotion a fresh start, at least in the eyes of the MMA fan. Let’s hope they keep it up after Eddie Alvarez’s rematch against Michael Chandler.