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Ben Askren becomes unrestricted free agent after Bellator grants 'Funky' unconditional release

According to today's release, the Bellator welterweight world title will remain vacant until Douglas Lima faces the winner of the Season 9 Welterweight Tournament later this winter when a new champion is crowned.


Ben Askren is a free man.

Bellator MMA said goodbye to its welterweight champion earlier today, announcing his unconditional release after the two sides failed to come to terms on a new deal. While the "Funky" wrestler was originally bound by the dreaded "matching" phase of his contract (details), the Viacom-owned promotion opted to waive those rights.

From Bellator Chairman & CEO Bjorn Rebney:

"I've said it many times, Ben's a completely one-dimensional fighter who is utterly dominant in that dimension. I had a number of discussions with Ben and it became clear it was time for both parties to move in different directions. We've relinquished any right to match here and Ben can sign with whoever he chooses to sign with. Ben's been at Bellator since the start of his career, I respect him and what he's accomplished and wish him the best wherever he goes."

Askren is free to sign with Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), no strings attached.

The timing is hardly coincidental, considering Georges St-Pierre is just two days away from defending his 170-pound title against Johny Hendricks at UFC 167 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Askren has been vocal about his desire to "beat up" the French-Canadian phenom.

Now, he may finally get his chance.

That's assuming "Rush" -- as well as UFC President Dana White -- are still interested. One man's trash is another man's treasure and it's hard to imagine passing on a two-time NCAA champion and U.S. Olympic wrestler who is undefeated at 12-0.

Not that it stopped Bellator, who apparently "tapped out."

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