For the longest time, the interaction between UFC president Dana White and Bellator boss Bjorn Rebney could be described as respectfully distant. Each minded his own shop, content to let the other lord over his own cage. But the gloves have come off in recent months, with Rebney signing a series of ex-UFC fighters, and White having plenty to say about Bellator’s ratings.
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During fight week, White threatened to open a new front in the burgeoning war, saying he was interested in Bellator’s welterweight champion Ben Askren.
Askren recently completed the last fight on his contract, and will soon have the chance to take himself and his perfect 12-0 record on the open market.
"We’ll talk to Ben," White said. "Yeah, we’ll talk to him."
That marks a 180-degree turn for White, who once infamously tweeted his disinterest in him, writing, "When ambien can’t sleep, it takes Ben Askren."
A 2008 Olympian, Askren began his career as a somewhat one-dimensional wrestler with the ability to take anyone down. Since then he’s grown his skill set, and has won two straight bouts via TKO. In his last, he out-landed his opponent by a staggering total of 248-3.
"You can do that in Bellator, you know what I mean? It’s going to be tougher to do it here," White said.
Aside from that, White isn’t necessarily concerned about Bellator, he said, citing the promotion’s TV ratings.
"I saw that ‘Bjork’ was talking some smack," he said, purposely jumbling his name. "I’m like, ‘Dude, just shut up and run your business.’ That’s over, man. You probably should have done that in the beginning when you had some legs to stand on. He needs to just shut up and run his business. They’re hurting."
Bellator’s TV ratings have been inconsistent, but the promotion recently announced its first pay-per-view date, with former UFC fighters Rampage Jackson and Tito Ortiz headlining. To put it bluntly, White is unthreatened by the bold move, saying the UFC wouldn’t even bother to counter-program the event as they did to other organizations in the past.
"You’re talking about, ‘How’s your competitive spirit feeling?’ Um, my video blog does more f—ing viewers than their television show does," he said. "I’m not feeling very competitive."