When Bellator unconditionally released their welterweight champion Ben Askren 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 repeatedly that he was not interested in Askren.
"He's a nice kid. I've got nothing personal against him. He's a nice guy. You know, we just won't be signing him," said White after the pair met last week.
“I wasn’t even going to say this, because it sounds like I’m just s----ing on them, but there’s just no competition for him over at Bellator. There’s competition for him at World Series of Fighting. This kid will probably sign with them. I don’t know they’ve got to come to an agreement and a deal. But if he does, there’s actual competition for him there.”
“I think it’s crazy that he’s ranked in the top 10. He hasn’t fought anybody and has no challenges. The best thing that could’ve ever happened to that kid was leaving Bellator. Now he has the opportunity to go to World Series of Fighting and show what he’s got.”
WSoF's welterweights include Josh Burkman, champion Steve Carl, Jon Fitch, and Rousimar Palhares.
While the WSoF offered a contract to the Olympian, it appears as if Askren is heading East - Far East.
First Askren announced he was joining Singapore's famed Evolve MMA, and would start his training camps at RoufuSport and complete them at Evolve.
"Without a doubt, Ben Askren is one of the best welterweights on the planet today," said Evolve founder Chatri Sityodtong. I am lucky to call him a friend, and blessed to now welcome him to the Evolve Fight Team," Sityodtong tells us, "Duke Roufus is one of the best MMA coaches on the planet, and together we will do everything in our power to make Ben the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world."
"Evolve MMA has the largest instructor team in Asia and the most number of world champions of any martial arts organization on Earth. Heath Sims and I will make sure that Ben has all the resources he needs to succeed. Welcome to Evolve MMA!"
If Askren is finishing his camps in Asia, then it stands to reason he will be fighting in Asia. And if he is fighting in Asia, it stands to reason he will be fighting for the region's dominant promotion - ONE FC.
Ariel Helwani received a round about confirmation of sorts:
Ariel Helwani @arielhelwani
I asked ONE FC CEO Victor Cui if it's true they signed Askren. "We will have some huge news to announce in the next few days ..." he said.
As the One FC rule set allows knees on the ground, and Askren has taken down everyone he faced, expect to see some action.
At Evolve Askren will be guided by the remarkable Chatri Sityodtong.
Rising from homelessness as a child, Sityodtong eventually received an MBA from Harvard, in 1999. Not long after, he joined Bain and Company as a management consultant.
For the next several years Chatri was involved in Internet start ups, investment banking, real estate, and other ventures, making untold millions.
As a child, the half Japanese, half Thai Chatri began training in Muay Thai under Kru Yodtong Senanan at Sityodtong Camp in Pattaya, Thailand. Kru Yodtong eventually bestowed on him the name Yodchatri Sityodtong. Chatri's fight career and financial career overlapped, with the last of his 30 fights taking place in 2008. Kru Yodtong appointed Chatri Sityodtong as one of four conservators worldwide of Sityodtong Muay Thai.
In 2008, Sityodtong founded the Evolve MMA chain of martial arts academies. By 2013, Evolve MMA was widely regarded as the top MMA gym in Asia, and Chatri as one of the sport's top coaches. He has trained, coached, or cornered MMA fighters such as Shinya Aoki, Rich Franklin, Rafael dos Anjos, BJJ wrld champions Zorobabel Moreira and Leandro Issa Da Silva, and strikers including Muay Thai world champion Yoddecha Sityodtong, and former WBA world champion Yodsanan Sor Nanthachai.
Earlier this year he launched Evolve University, Asia's largest online university for martial arts.
Chatri is also a sought after motivational speaker, and is involved with a number of charitable efforts, includijng Project Sunshine for terminally-ill children, Singapore's Boys Town Home for orphans and troubled children, and Singapore Children's Society for underprivileged children.
As mixed martial arts becomes, truly, an international sport, the opportunities blossom. Ben Askren's future has gone from looking gloomy to very bright indeed.
And the first fight already appears to be in the works...
phil baroni @philbaroni
@ONEFCMMA @Benaskren I was beating up Olympic wrestlers since 2001 and silver medalist at that
Ben Askren @Benaskren
@philbaroni @ONEFCMMA ha Phil you would go cry in the bathroom to your GF again after I finished abusing you.