When Bellator unconditionally released their welterweight champion Ben Askren yesterday following weeks of posturing, Askren was excited to join the UFC.
"I am now free to go to the @UFC and beat whoever I want," he tweeted.
However, UFC President Dana White said emphatically that he was not interested in Askren, and held Bellator in contempt.
"No interest," said White, as transcribed by MMAFighting. "As far as the kid, as far as the level he's on? He barely beat Jay Hieron, you know? He's got some work to do, he can fight in another organization and work his way up and go from there."
White also expressed unbridled disdain for Bellator.
"He's their champion and they don't want him. What does that tell you?" asked White. "They don't even care... The fact that they would just give away a guy who was undefeated, it just shows what kind of people you are."
White additonally expressed empathy for fighters under contract to Bellator, referring to the league as "that s---hole."
Now Askren has responded.
“(Dana) said he was interested two months ago, nothing had changed. We will see what happens.”
“Dana’s a businessman, so I’m sure he sees the value that I can bring to the organization because they haven’t brought in a high-level 170-pounder in a while, so I think it would bring a lot of new and exciting matchups to the division."
The 29-year-old fighter also labeled himself the No. 6 170-pound fighter. His ideal scenario, however, is to fight immediately for a title.
“But if they offer me someone else good, Condit, Shields or whoever, I’m good with that,” said Askren. “Obviously, I don’t want to have to fight a couple of scrubs.”
Asked whether a move to the UFC was in the back of his mind during talks with Bellator, he said, “It’s always in my mind that I want to be the No. 1 fighter in the world, and however I can accomplish that, I’ll accomplish that.”
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Askren later addressed White's remark about Jay Hieron. Askren beat Hieron via split decision at Bellator 56 on 10/29/2011.
"To anyone who points to my Jay Heiron WIN to discredit my abilities consider this," said Askren. "At that point I was LESS than 3 years into my career and relatively inexperienced despite already being the Bellator Champion. I had a tough fight against the #16 ranked fight in the world(at the time) and was able to get the job done. I have learned and progressed significantly since then.
"As a point of reference the man fighting for the WW UFC Belt this weekend Johny Hendricks LOST a Unanimous Dec fight to Rick Story(who wasn't near the top 16 at that point) after fighting for MORE than 3 years.
"Moral of story high level wrestlers progress rapidly through their career. Despite my inexperience at the time I was able get the job done against a high level experienced fighter. I am significantly better than I was then and will continue to get the job done against any WW put in front of me."
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