Bellator granted "Funky" his full release a couple months back, leading fight fans to believe the former two-time NCAA Division 1 wrestling champion and Olympian would quickly land a spot on the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) roster.
According to Askren, after a good meeting with UFC President Dana White and CEO Lorenzo Fertitta at ZUFFA headquarters, he thought landing a contract with the Las Vegas, Nevada - based promotion would be a no-brainer.
However, a few hours later, Askren received the call that White and Co. just weren't interested. And according to Ben, that decision had nothing to do with his skill set, or lack thereof, but more-so with the fact that Dana can't get over his quarrels with Bellator CEO Bjorn Rebney.
"Funky " explained on a recent appearance on "The MMA Hour:"
"The meeting (with UFC) went really well, they were all polite and everything was good and we talked. Honestly, when I left the UFC offices I thought we were going to come to a deal at that point. It just seemed like it was going to happen then later that night they called back and said they weren't interested. It was a weird set of circumstances. After going to the meeting, it was very clear to me that it's not about me; it's Dana's quarrel with Bellator and Bjorn and everything else that's going on there. When you look at his main argument that I'm not good enough, it's shenanigans. I don't think there's a site in the world that does not have me in the top 10. They got 84 guys on the roster and frankly, I'd beat half of those dudes with one arm tied behind my back and blindfolded. Some of those guys, they really suck, they are really bad at the sport of MMA. So, when it came down to it, I think it's all about the Bellator bickering."
"I think Lorenzo (Fertitta) doesn't let his ego get involved in it, he's a little more mature and he doesn't have the quarrel with Bellator as much as Dana. I think Lorenzo was pro me, and wanted to get me in the organization. One of the things I respected about UFC, When the Fertitta's bought the business, it wasn't the best MMA organization on the planet, it was probably PRIDE. But their main goal was to let the best fighters fight it out to see who the best is and when you think that Dana is so 'immature' that he's letting a bitter rivalry between he and Bellator/Bjorn get in the way of the main point of the business, which is to put the best people in the world in the Octagon to let them fight it out, it's kind of crazy. You would think when someone has a billion dollars and one of the biggest sport organizations in the world they would get over a bitter rivalry with another company and let the best fighters get in the Octagon and fight it out."
Not even fighting for free was good enough for Askren to land a UFC fight contract.
Nevertheless, Askren will now be fighting in Asia for the next 24 months and is expected to make his debut for the promotion in March or April of 2014.