In a new MMA Fighting interview, Bellator welterweight champion Ben Askren says that he'd happily turned down more money to re-sign with the organization in order to seek out better competition in the UFC.
"I was getting to the end of my exclusive period with Bellator. [Bellator CEO] Bjorn [Rebney] made me a couple offers, and they weren't bad offers and Bellator isn't a bad company, but my main reason why I got into the sport of mixed martial arts was to be number one in the world," Askren explained.
"What I kept telling Bjorn was, 'Hey, I'm [ranked] number 6 in the world, I want to fight numbers 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 right now.' All those people are the UFC and that is only place to accomplish that. So that was the point we kept going back and forth on. He and I pretty much said, there's no use in keeping matching rights and everything else if that's what you want you want to do. He was gracious enough to respect my wishes to want to fight the best in the world."
According to Askren, who has publicly offered to fight either UFC champ Georges St. Pierre or his teammate Rory MacDonald for free, the goal of proving that he's the best fighter in the world is much more important to him than money. "I'm not willing to compromise my goals for monetary value," he continued.
And though the wrestler is an unrestricted free agent at this time and options abound for him, including a potential roster spot in the World Series of Fighting (WSOF), he's only interested in fighting in the UFC.
"What's the challenge if I go and fight [in the WSOF]? If I'm going to fight guys below me, I would have stayed in Bellator and took the money they were offering," he explained.
The outspoken and undefeated champion is not deterred by UFC president Dana White saying that he is not interested in signing him, either. "I don't take it all personally, it's business," he said.
Askren says the plan is for his management to meet with White and UFC owner Lorenzo Fertitta in the promotion's home of Las Vegas.
"My management is going to be hopefully go to Vegas meet with Lorenzo and Dana this week," Askren said.
"Once that happens I'll have better idea where they actually stand."
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