Bellator MMA announced Thursday their long-time champion had been released and is a free agent, able to sign with another promotion.
"I've said it many times, Ben's a completely one-dimensional fighter who is utterly dominant in that dimension," Bellator Chairman and CEO Bjorn Rebney said. "I had a number of discussions with Ben and it became clear it was time for both parties to move in different directions. We've relinquished any right to match here and Ben can sign with whoever he chooses to sign with. Ben's been at Bellator since the start of his career, I respect him and what he's accomplished and wish him the best wherever he goes."
The Bellator welterweight champion is now vacant, however, the winner between Douglas Lima and the season 9 welterweight tournament will earn that title.
Askren, 29, leaves Bellator with a record of 12-0 and 9-0 in the Bellator cage. He defended his title four times after earning the title in October of 2010.
He last competed in July at Bellator 97 where he earned a fourth-round stoppage over Andrey Koreshkov via fourth-round TKO. That bout was the last of his existing Bellator contract.
For his part, Askren shared the news via Twitter after Bellator's announcement:
I am now free to go to the @UFC and beat whoever I want.— Ben Askren (@Benaskren) November 14, 2013