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Bjorn Rebney discusses Ben Askren's release from Bellator

Bellator welterweight champion Ben Askren is a former

Bellator welterweight champion Ben Askren is a former Olympic wrestler. Credit: Bellator

The outright contractual release of an undefeated mixed martial arts champion doesn't fit the normal work flow.

"It's an odd, weird situation," Bellator chief executive Bjorn Rebney told Newsday on Monday. "I don't think we'll see it again anytime soon."

Rebney found himself as the creator of said situation last month when Bellator released welterweight champion Ben Askren. A former Olympic wrestler, Askren was 12-0 and succesfully defended his Bellator title five times.

Rebney's statement in the news release of Nov. 14 announcing the move left no doubt that Askren was free of Bellator's matching rights. The statement then was as swift and strong as any from Rebney.

"What I was trying to say about Ben is what I've always said about Ben," Rebney said Monday during an interview in Manhattan. "He is ridiculously one-dimensional. He just happens to be better at that one dimension than potentially anyone on Earth.

"Ben was and is a very, very weird conundrum," Rebney said. "Unless you're a hard-core fan of wrestling, he is not particularly exciting to watch fight. If you are a wrestling fan. you've got to be wildly appreciative."

Askren won two NCAA Division I national titles wrestling for Missouri. He was a four-time All-American in college and wrestled for Team USA in the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.

His MMA matches have relied heavily on that wrestling pedigree. He won six straight fights in Bellator by decision.

But there are some signs of a growing skill set. Askren's last two fights were TKO victories, including a doctor's stoppage over Karl Amassou and a referee's stoppage by punches over Andrey Koreshkov.

"His ability to utilize wrestling in MMA is surely as good as anybody's in MMA, if not the best in MMA," Rebney said. "But, if you're a pure MMA fan, to a lot of people, he's not particularly exciting.

"Great big personality, very exploitable personality from a marketing perspective," Rebney added. "But, you know, the 25-minute takedown, top-control fest that he gave us event after event after event weren't to all MMA fans' likings."

Rebney wouldn't disclose actual dollar figures but said the numbers Bellator offered the second time around were "very far" apart from what Askren and his team sought.

"There's no question that his perception of his value and my perception of his value were different," Rebney said. "If you can get a deal with the UFC, God bless you and go for it. Do whatever you can do, but I don't want to hold you up because we're way off. And it's not a situation where I'm looking at you thinking we can develop this niche. He's a complete anomaly in the sport."

UFC president Dana White said he met with Askren last week but didn't foresee a contract offer coming his way. White suggested Askren could shine in the World Series of Fighting, an up-and-coming MMA promotion based in Las Vegas with a TV deal on NBC's cable sports network.

Askren joined the Evolve MMA fight team based in Singapore over the weekend. One FC, a large MMA promotion in Singapore, is believed to be a possible landing place for the 12-0 Askren.

Rebney said it was an easy call to give Askren his full release when it became apparent they had different ideas on his value. When asked if he would ever consider re-signing Askren, Rebney said he wasn't sure.

"He is that rarity in top-five, six-ranked fighters in the world who just doesn't have the two major organizations bidding on him right now," Rebney said. "Who knows what's going to happen in the next year? Who knows where his game goes from here?"

The last Bellator contract dispute to gain such public attention was the one involving Eddie Alvarez, which began in October 2012 and was resolved last August after a lengthy legal dispute.

Rebney said the Askren and Alvarez negotiations were completely different circumstances.

"The Ed situation was driven by business decisions and a contract that we had and what that contract said and what we knew it said and the rights that we knew we had," Rebney said. "The Ben situation was completely different. If Ben had come around to the first set of offers we made, or even the second, we probably we would have re-signed him and continued to try to build that persona and continue to market and promote that heel image that's he cultivated that's just awesome."

New York Sports