Santino DeFranco editorial: Is Ben Askren a pawn?


This Underground Blog Guest Editorial was written by TUF, K-1, IFL, and Bodog veteran Santino DeFranco. Santino is also a trainer of note, having worked with Seth Baczynski, Efrain Escudero, Yaotzin Meza, Danny Martinez, and Victor Mez, among many others. He is currently enrolled in the MFA Creative Writing program at Northern Arizona University, and recently finished a novel that is in the final stages of editing.

He asks, is Ben Askren a sacrificial pawn in Dana and Bjorn’s game of chess?

Over the last week or so we’ve heard Dana say that he’s “very interested in Ben Askren,” Bjorn Rebney say he “wasn’t interested in Askren,” and Askren himself publicly state that he wants to fight in the UFC

I’m not so sure all three parties are one hundred percent honest in their statements though.  I think Askren is being honest about his desires, as I think he may be under the (false) impression he is more of a blue chip commodity than he may actually be. But we’ll get to his statements after we talk about the real issue here: Bjorn and Dana’s true intentions, and distaste for one another.

Are Dana and Bjorn’s respective statements true, or are they business tricks to try to drive Askren’s price down or leave the other with the hot potato when the buzzer goes off?  Well, I wouldn’t be writing this if I thought former - and Askren might just want to tone down what he says in the media until he is contractually released from Bellator.

Why the sudden change from Dana regarding Askren?  I know he has done this before with fighters not in his organization - he talks about how horrible fighter X is, then as soon as the fighter is a free agent swoops in and signs Mr. X, telling the world how amazing he has been all along.  Dana’s bashing of any and all that is not the UFC is certainly nothing new, but this time it might just be a little different.  Askren isn’t exactly the most exciting fighter, or any type of ratings god, or the most interesting personality.  He is, however, Bellator’s most dominant champion that is coming to the end of his contract.  By Dana publicly stating he’s interested in Askren (he usually doesn’t announce fighter negotiations until they are finalized) that could, theoretically, drive up Bellator’s initial offer to keep their current champ on the roster.  Or, if Bellator chooses not to offer a contract, that could keep the bidding war to a minimum and Dana could pick up Askren much cheaper, and painlessly, as opposed to what we saw in the Eddie Alvarez negotiations debacle. 

As for Bjorn’s statements, it is pretty much the reciprocal.  By Bjorn stating he doesn’t want Askren that, again theoretically, would mean the UFC may come in with a lower offer to Askren.  If the offer is low enough, Bellator may decide to jump on the matching clause and take Askren back as their champion.  If the UFC really does want Askren badly enough and offers him a lucrative contract, Bjorn probably won't match it, and it gets Askren off of Bellator’s hands and makes room for a more exciting champion - maybe the winner of the Fight Master reality show and the next tournament winner?  Either way, Bjorn is hoping to get a win out of going public with his statement as opposed to handling the contract behind closed doors.

That brings us to Ben Askren, who may suffer the most from both presidents publicly talking about him.  It may not have been a wise decision for Askren to go public about wanting to go to the UFC before he actually had the contract signed.  If Bellator does decide to let him go and honestly doesn’t want him and Dana, in turn, offers him a low contract - maybe much lower than what he was hoping for or will accept - Askren might not have any other choice but to take the lowball offer.  If he had kept his mouth closed for a bit longer, he might very well have been in a decent position to negotiate a much higher pay rate. But as of now, it seems that Askren may be the pawn both chess masters are hoping to give up in order to win the game.

Regardless of the outcome, whether the UFC or Bellator signs the upcoming free agent, Askren, it’s just hard to believe that these talks are not some sort of façade that Dana and Bjorn are putting in front of the world to gain a strong position with one another.  

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tags: UFC   Santino DeFranco   Dana White   Ben Askren   Bjorn Rebney   

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Recent Comments »

Santino DeFranco site profile image  

11/15/13 9:16 AM by Santino DeFranco


Stephen Holder site profile image  

8/24/13 9:54 AM by Stephen Holder

SO I dont know a single thing about Ben Askren. People say hes cocky but has a super boring fight style, comparable to an even more boring version of GSP. Now.. I'll be the first to complain about fights that look like hugging matches but saying that someone like that couldn't be a draw eventually isn't 100% true either. Sure at first he wont get ratings.. being relatively unknown but could you imagine if you had a guy that was as successful as GSP but wasn't as good of a human being and as humble? Lets say Askren takes GSP's strap and does it in a 'Fitch on steroids' manner and then repeats again and again and 'lays n prays' the entire division over the next 5 years like GSP did. Only Askren takes a chapter out of Chael's book and gets on the mic after each win and trashes the guy he just layed on to win the bout and then trashes the entire roster? Sure its WWEish but after a while people would pay just in hopes that the dude would lose. Yeah its not what I would want personally but as a promoter theres a way to make money with Askren if they do it right.

Bellator Fan site profile image  

8/24/13 9:50 AM by Bellator Fan

People who understand technique know how exciting Ben Askren is. The guy does things in the cage that no one else is doing right now.

KingofBJJ site profile image  

8/24/13 9:41 AM by KingofBJJ

No one can find a better mug shot than that?  His face looks like it was attacked by a swarm of bees.

weebrave site profile image  

8/23/13 6:55 PM by weebrave

I think Ben would go balls to the wall trying to get the takedown and gsp might just run away

TheGoldenRule site profile image  

8/23/13 6:00 PM by TheGoldenRule

I'm right there with you as it pertains to the beauty that is Ben's wrestling. But I also believe that if he ever earned/ was given the chance to fight GSP, his tds would get stuffed, and we'd see an exciting striking clinic put on by Georges. You did make me think that is love to see Diaz fight Ben

weebrave site profile image  

8/23/13 5:50 PM by weebrave

I agree, gsp used to be exciting. I understand the difference of competition. And yeah I don't want to argue I just can't stand watching gsp take no chances. Askren has had me saying wow quite a few times, maybe cuz I'm a former wrestler

TheGoldenRule site profile image  

8/23/13 5:26 PM by TheGoldenRule

Don't wanna get into a sparring match with you. You're entitled to believe Ben is more exciting than GSP. more power to ya.But since the Diaz fight was your point of reference, let's start there.First, I admitted that GSP has been less exciting lately. Second, If jabs n doubles is all you saw, watch again. You might actually find yourself to be missing a bit. If GSP didn't have the striking capabilities he possesses, he may not have been able to take Nick down and take his back at will ad nauseam throughout the fight. let's also not forget it was Nick effin Diaz. When has Ben fought anyone ranked as high as Nick? I'm not saying that Ben hasn't fought worthy fighters. I'm not even saying Ben wouldn't be able to do the same to Nick that GSP did. However, since you referenced that specific fight as proof that Ben is more exciting, that would render you reference point moot.

weebrave site profile image  

8/23/13 4:24 PM by weebrave

Why exactly? GPS jabs or doubles to taking no chances on top. Askren is constantly chain wrestling and smothering his opponent. His last opponent stuffed three takedowns and askren just kept changing takedowns until he got it . He went for a ton of submissions and threw 239 punches. GPS just rode nick diazs back not even trying to put the hooks in or choke.

TheGoldenRule site profile image  

8/23/13 3:50 PM by TheGoldenRule

C'mon now. I'll agree that gsp's fights have been less exciting than he was in the past, but to say Ben is more exciting is 'worthy of ridicule' (ridiculous)