ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. – Even though Bjorn Rebney said he has a very good reason to keep Eddie Alvarez under contract and not Ben Askren, the Bellator MMA chairman and CEO had harsh words for his rivals at the UFC, who’ve apparently taken a pass on the latter.
Rebney, speaking after Friday’s Bellator 108 event in Atlantic City, N.J., recently concluded a lengthy legal (and public-relations) battle to keep newly crowned lightweight champion Alvarez under contract. However, he said he has sound financial reasoning for not putting forth the same effort to keep Askren, its longtime welterweight champion.
Askren, of course, was officially released earlier this week when Bellator opted to drop its matching rights.
“It’s just two totally different fighters – totally, completely different fighters with different personas, different fighting styles, different upsides, different downsides, different fan connections,” he told MMAjunkie. “I don’t know that there are two fighters more different in the MMA space than Eddie Alvarez and Ben Askren.”
Despite his decision to ultimately pass on Askren, Rebney said he and the undefeated fighter had “a lot of conversations and a lot of discussions” about a new deal. However, he said it ultimately didn’t make economic sense to keep the former NCAA Division I national wrestling champion and 2008 Olympian under contract due to his ground-based fighting style.
“I made him a series of offers,” Rebney said. “He didn’t feel the offers made sense for him from an economic standpoint, and at that point, it just made sense … to give him his out-and-out release and let him go do whatever he wants.
” … This has always been a business, and I’ve always approached it like a business. I never approached it like a fan or like a guy who’s on a losing streak who keeps throwing money down on the craps table. It’s all about economics. It’s about profit and loss. There are just some circumstances where you’re going to look at a guy like Ben and say, ‘OK, what kind of a revenue generator can he be? Where are we as a company able to monetize Ben? How much does Ben want to stay here, and does it make sense to up that offer?’ When I did that math, it didn’t make sense. Ben wanted more, and that’s his right.”
However, Rebney criticized the UFC’s decision to pass on Askren (12-0), who’s ranked No. 7 in the latest USA TODAY Sports/MMAjunkie.com MMA welterweight rankings. Earlier this week, UFC President Dana White said the organization has “no interest” in the fighter, though Askren later told MMAjunkie he’s optimistic UFC officials will change their mind.
While Bellator ultimately took a pass, Rebney said he has a reason to criticize White’s decision for doing the same thing.
“I think it’s disingenuous and ridiculous,” he said. “If you stand up consistently at every press conference and in every media scrum and say the greatest fighters in the world fight here, and the No. 6 ranked welterweight in the world becomes available unrestricted with no matching rights – and you don’t even make him an offer – then you need to stop saying the best fighters in the world fight there.
“There are an awful lot of fighters in the UFC that Ben Askren could beat 99 out of a hundred fights, many of them at the top of the division.”
For more on Bellator’s and the UFC’s schedules, stay tuned to the UFC Rumors section of the site.
(Pictured: Bjorn Rebney)
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