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Did the UFC and Dana White make the right move in not signing Ben Askren?

ben-askren-1Recently the former Bellator Fighting Championships Welterweight champion and 2008 Olympian Ben Askren signed a deal to fight with the Asian based Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) organization One FC.

Upon his storied request for his release from the Bellator Fighting Championships, the former welterweight champion Ben Askren began to shop around to see what some of the world’s best MMA organizations had to offer.

What seemed to shock many in the MMA community is that the UFC and Dana White had absolutely no interest in the former welterweight champion known in the wrestling world as “Funky” for his unorthodox wrestling style and as “Mr. Wrestling” in the MMA community. The question is and seems to be, “Did the UFC make the right decision?”

Yesterday, we covered the question: Did Ben Askren Make The Right Move?

Today we will jump into the discussion of “Did Dana White Make The Right Decision By Not Signing Ben Askren?”

Let’s understand something. Dana White is nothing short of a genius. Some of you may love him and some of you may hate him but understand this – he has helped build and create a brand that is building and gaining international strength as we speak. The UFC literally created and devised a plan to take over PrideFC and if they thought it lucrative they’d do the same with ONE FC.

But let’s stay on topic.

Let’s say you sign Ben Askren. What happens?

Many of the fans of the UFC began to turn against one of the best champions of all time, GSP, because he was accused of fighting safe. He was accused of being — boring. A man who has arguably taken more punishment than any one person inside of the Octagon, mastered the art of fighting, perfected the use of the jab in MMA, honed his wrestling skills, sharpened his jiujitsu and became one of the most complete MMA fighters of all time is now considered boring.

And do you know why?

Well, contrary to what you believe, the UFC is NOT in the MMA business. The UFC holds and promotes MMA events but they are not in the MMA business. Floyd Mayweather is not in the boxing business either. He’s a boxer, but he’s not in the boxing business.

Vince McMahon has said it best and has said on many occasions. He has said plenty of times that he is not in the wrestling business. He has said clearly that he is in the sports entertainment business. This is what allows a Hulk Hogan, who is not a great wrestler, to exist as one of the greatest to ever do it. Hulk and Vince understood that it’s not about wrestling. It’s about entertainment.

Now, MMA is real fighting so there is some talent necessary when it comes to being able to fight, but that does not negate the fact that you must be entertaining to fight under the UFC banner. If not a pre-requisite it is a requirement. If you look at the culture and the token economy that is set up to encourage behavior you will recognize that Dana White awards exciting fighters. If you are exciting, you are not going to get cut. And if you do get cut, you can come back. If you put on a snore fest and lay-n-pray, you will either get cut, find yourself not getting your next fight or never get in to the UFC.

This NOT A BAD THING.

The UFC is not only an organization. It is a brand.

Dana White is no different than a football coach putting a team together. You don’t always put the best talent on your team. What you do is put the best talent on your team that can fit in your system. You pick the best person for YOUR team, that can run YOUR system and that is a good fit.

In my opinion, the reason why Dana White wanted Ben Askren to go the the World Series of Fighting is because he wanted to see if his style was a product of his personality or if is was a manifestation of the lack of talent, as he perceived it, on the Bellator roster. If challenged, or if down a round, Ben Askren may fight differently. Who knows? But I’m sure Dana White doesn’t want to throw a lot of money at Mr. Askren to find that out. That is something that he needs to know beforehand.

If you think that Dana White has something against Bellator, then you are myopic in your view and understanding of business. He truly believes that his brand is better because it’s his brand, but he has no problem with the talent and accepting it if it is a good fit for his organization. Just take a look at Hector Lombard. Hector is an exciting fighter. His first fight in the UFC was somewhat disappointing, but Dana and the UFC knew one thing. A “boring” fight from Lombard is an outlying circumstance, not the norm.

Now, I’ve been a world class competitor and was a NCAA Division one wrestler, so I’ve never seen one of Ben Askren’s fights as boring. To me he looks like a surgeon utilizing the precision necessary to complete a job. But I am not Dana White. And I’m not in the business of “putting on the fights that the fans want to see.” I’m a former competitor and a coach. So I see the fights differently, but I clearly understand where Dana White is coming from.

The correct decision for Dana White and the UFC was to allow Ben Askren to go elsewhere and increase his value a little bit more which will create the value to the UFC. Right now, it’s of no value to the UFC to put Ben Askren on the roster. He does not fit.

What if he comes in and wins and wins the title?

That’s no good for the UFC.

What if he comes in and loses.

That’s no good for the UFC.

When Ben Askren can walk from one organization and walk into the UFC with the hype that can sell top billing on a Pay-Per-View event, I guarantee you that Dana White will give him another look. Until then, if it doesn’t make dollars, then it doesn’t make sense.

I truly believe that Dana White made the right decision for the UFC.

And I truly believe that Ben Askren made the right decision for himself and his career.

It was truly a win-win. And remember, Ben’s career is just starting. He has 12 fights and has fought in one organization. Most people fight in two, three, or four organizations in their career. Look at Anderson Silva, Bigfoot Silva, Dan Henderson, Brock Lesnar and many others.

At the end of the day, Askren doesn’t need the UFC and the UFC doesn’t need Askren. If and when they need each other, the relationship will occur. If not, keep watching, I’m sure something exciting is going to happen real soon.

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To contact Rhadi Ferguson you may follow him on twitter at @rhadi or @JudoDoc

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