If Ben Askren is looking for one more fight and then heading back into retirement, Bellator is going to take a pass on its former welterweight champion.
Bellator president Scott Coker told MMA Fighting in a recent phone interview that the promotion would not be interested in Askren if it’s only for a single fight. Askren and Rory MacDonald went back and forth on social media recently, igniting some interest in a fight between the former and current 170-pound Bellator champ.
The undefeated Askren is still under contract with ONE Championship and retired, though he has expressed interest in coming back for a fight with someone like Georges St-Pierre or MacDonald. Coker said he spoke to ONE CEO Chatri Sityodtong on the phone last week and expressed that an Askren one-off is not really to Bellator’s liking.
“It seems like he has a really, really good program out there in Asia,” Coker said of Sityodtong. “And we talked about that fight and I told him, to be honest to have a one-fight deal with Ben doesn’t really do us much. I wished him luck.”
Coker and Sityodtong did talk about other things, Coker said. No specifics were hashed out or anything, he said, but both men expressed interest in a future Bellator-ONE collaboration. Bellator is no stranger to working with other organizations, like Rizin, BAMMA and others.
“I said if [Askren’s status] changes, Chatri, let us know and we said we’ll get together some time soon and maybe we can do some collaborations or we can work together in sharing fighters,” Coker said. “If they need some help, we’re happy to help them. He said the same. So the relationship is good. When I think about the Ben Askren fight, if it was more than one fight, we would be interested.”
MacDonald, a former UFC title challenger, won the Bellator title by defeating Douglas Lima in February. Coker said he is targeting a return to the cage in August or September. A challenger has not been named, but Coker said he believes a rematch with Lima is something “people would love to see.” Coker mentioned former champ Andrey Koreshkov and the winner of Saturday’s Paul Daley vs. Jon Fitch fight as part of the welterweight title conversation as well.
“We’ll have a lineup of people ready to fight Rory when the time is right,” Coker said.
That lineup is very unlikely to include Askren, who held the Bellator title from 2010 to 2013. The Wisconsin native and former Olympian went 6-0 (1 NC) with ONE before calling it a career late last year.
“We have a lot of other fighters to fight Rory that we could go to first,” Coker said. “But the one thing about this business, you never know. We’ll continue to talk to Chatri, because Ben is still under contract with ONE. We want to be respectful of that.”