It’s official: “Funky” is free. Well, as free as one can be once your Bellator contract expires, as the whole Eddie Alvarez debacle has shown us. So, what does he do now? Just because Bjorn Rebney says he will let you go and not try and drag you back into the organization kicking and screaming doesn’t mean that he will.
Ben Askren’s Bellator contract is up, where does he go from here?
If Rufusport’s resident wrestler wanted to press his luck, he could certainly start negotiating with the UFC right away. That, however, would leave him open to the same trap that caught Eddie Alvarez. That would be the “matching period,” where Bellator has the option of tabling a contract offer equal in terms to anything an outside organization gives and then forcing Askren back into their fold.
If “Funky” Ben does decide to wait out the matching period, then his market value takes a hit. Unless he engages in crazy stunts like Vinny Magalhaes did while waiting out his M-1 Global matching period, then his name will appear less and less often in the media. It also stands a good chance of killing a bidding war, unless World Series of Fighting decides to make a serious attempt at signing him. That said, any offer he receives will likely be far less than he would receive now, at the peak of his marketability.
Unfortunately for Askren, and any other notable fighter attempting to leave Bellator at the end of a contract, he’s stuck between a rock and a hard place. If he and his management team go straight into negotiations with the UFC, then the big fish risks being lassoed back into the small pond that is Bellator’s welterweight division. If he waits for the matching period to end, then his market value takes a hit. In the end, it’s a hard choice to make, but we’ll just have to wait and see which way the superb grappler goes.