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Trash Talk Is Over the Top, But Askren vs. Thomas Is Big for Bellator

When Ben Askren defeated Ryan Thomas on April 15 because the referee mistakenly thought Thomas had been choked out, both fighters were classy about it. Askren acknowledged that he had just been given a victory he really hadn't earned, while Thomas acknowledged that it wasn't Askren's fault that the referee made a mistake.

So now that we're just a day away from the Askren-Thomas rematch, it's a little jarring to hear these two guys talk about each other like they're bitter rivals.

Bellator Fighting Championships, which very wisely set up its welterweight tournament bracket to give fans an Askren-Thomas rematch in the semifinals, has been sending out press releases with quotes from both guys talking about how much they dislike each other. I know they're just trying to hype the fight, but I find it a little off-putting.

The most recent press release features Thomas calling Askren a "coward" who "needs to keep his mouth shut before I shut it for him."

"I think it's pretty cowardly of him to be walking around running his mouth bragging about a victory he didn't earn," Thomas said. "The guy hasn't done anything in MMA. He hasn't beaten anybody, including me, so I don't know where he gets off disrespecting me. After this fight I'm gonna show him that you can't be a one-dimensional fighter in MMA in this day and age."

Thomas was apparently referring to comments Askren made such as, "I'm going to do the same thing I did the last time: I'm going to go in there and choke him," Askren said. "Only this time, I'm gonna put him to sleep all the way so he can't complain about it."

I think Bellator is going a little over the top in using these quotes to hype up the fight, but I also think Bellator did a great thing in setting up the Askren-Thomas rematch so quickly. For those who don't remember, Bellator put Thomas back in the cage only a week after that controversial loss to Askren, giving Thomas the spot in the welterweight tournament that British fighter Jim Wallhead had to vacate when he couldn't get to the United States because of the Iceland volcano. Thomas took advantage of that opportunity and beat Jacob McClintock by first-round TKO, and then Bellator set up its bracket so that Thomas and Askren would fight in Thursday night's tournament semifinal.

This rematch is a rare opportunity for MMA fans. We see bad calls and bad decisions all the time, but we usually have to wait months or years to see a rematch, or never get to see a rematch at all. In this case, we've only had to wait five weeks. The rematch is another sign that Bellator wants to put on the fights that its fans want to see. Even if the way they're hyping the fight is a little much.

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