Despite uncertainties, Ben Askren 'not really worried about my MMA career'


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ben-askren-9.jpgReigning Bellator MMA welterweight champion Ben Askren (12-0 MMA, 9-0 BMMA) currently resides on contractual purgatory, but he’s not letting the uncertainty bring him down. In fact, Askren said if he never fights again, he’ll still be satisfied with what lies ahead.

“I’m not really worried about my MMA career,” Askren told MMAjunkie.com. “I’ve had a great career so far, and we’ll see what happens going forward. It will probably get interesting from here.”

The undefeated Askren is a former collegiate wrestling standout, earning two NCAA Division I titles and securing All-American status four times while competing for Missouri. He also competed in the 2008 Olympic Games but failed to medal.

He made his professional MMA debut in 2009, and after three first-round finishes was signed by the upstart Bellator MMA promotion, then in just its second season. Askren promptly claimed the promotion’s Season 2 welterweight tournament title and then defeated then-champ Lyman Good.

Askren has since defended his belt four times, but his contract with the promotion expired following his July win over Andrey Koreshkov.

Bellator CEO Bjorn Rebney publicly stated he didn’t intend to offer Askren a new deal, but the company has yet to offer the champ an outright release and according to Askren still maintains the right to match any offers made for his services.

“Bjorn told me that exact same phrase on the phone before he said it publicly, which, whatever,” Askren said. “He has his opinion. I think it was a play to get the UFC to offer less money so he can match easier. Obviously, it’s like playing poker. Sometimes you’ve got to say something you don’t really mean here and there.

“I don’t know. I’m trying to read Bjorn. He said he’s going to let me go, but he didn’t waive the matching period, obviously. It’s like saying you’ll let your dog go, but you still have a leash on him. So, we’ll see. It’s going to get interesting.”

UFC President Dana White has admitted the promotion is interesting in bringing Askren to the octagon, but the company is obviously hesitant to get involved in another ugly contract situation following the lengthy Eddie Alvarez debacle. Askren was photographed with UFC matchmaker Joe Silva backstage at August’s UFC 164 weigh-in ceremony, but he insists the UFC has not yet made an official offer.

“I think the UFC just wanted to put that out there, of course; they’re interested,” Askren said. “Obviously there’s the year match period with Bellator, and the UFC had quite the – I don’t know what you want to say, troubles – with the Eddie Alvarez matching period. So I think they’re a little weary of that, but we’ll see what happens.”

In the meantime, Askren has returned to his wrestling roots, and he’ll headline the new all-wrestling Agon Wrestling Championships event, which takes place Oct. 27 in Las Vegas.

When (or if) he’ll return to MMA remains to be seen. Should he have his eyes set on the UFC, he may indeed be forced to wait a full year to make such a move. But if you think the uncertainty is frustrating for Askren, you would be mistaken. The 29-year-old Roufusport fighter said he realizes nothing in life is guaranteed, and he’s at peace with whatever comes next.

“If my career ended tomorrow because of an ACL injury or something, whatever, I’m fine,” Askren said. “From when I was a kid, I’ve accomplished more than any kid could dream of across wrestling and MMA. Between the two, I’ve dually accomplished more than almost anyone, ever, has done in both sports. So I’m perfectly happy with the way my career was gone.

“I would love to get the shot to fight for the UFC title, and if I go back to Bellator and have to fight for a lot of money, then that’s not really something to be salty about either. That was kind of one thing I was shocked about Eddie. He wanted to go to court and fight about it. It’s like, ‘Dude, you’re going to get almost $400,000 for your first fight. There’s some people that work every day for $8 an hour. You’re bitching about $400,000 for a fight? Dude, you’re really not that hard up, Go work for $8 an hour at Lowe’s or taking out the trash and then complain about your life.’

“If I get paid a lot to fight, I’ll fight. If I don’t, I’ll probably retire and be perfectly happy with my MMA career. I have two wrestling academies. We have a wrestling camp system, and I’m really passionate about those things. I love doing those things. So honestly, there’s a lot of different ways this can end, and I think every single one of them has a positive ending for me.”

For more on the UFC and Bellator MMA’s upcoming schedules, stay tuned to the MMA Rumors section of the site.

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