Ben Askren is no longer the Bellator welterweight kingpin, and the new champion will be crowned in 2014.
Douglas Lima and Rick Hawn, the last two tournament winners, will meet the next year in a five-round fight for the 170-pound title, but the Brazilian is still surprised by Bellator’s decision to release Askren.
"I was kind of (surprised) because he was the undefeated champion and a really tough fighter," Lima told MMAFighting.com. "But he didn’t sell his fights because of his fighting style and I think that’s really important for the promotion. I believe that’s the reason why Bellator didn’t want to fight that much for him."
Askren told The MMA Hour he wants to join the UFC to fight the best in the world, but UFC president Dana White is not interested.
"I don’t know if it was good or bad for him (to leave Bellator)," Lima said. "I don’t have anything against him and I wish him the best. But I know UFC will sign him."
Lima’s only loss over the last 14 bouts was to Askren at Bellator 64, and he doesn’t sound upset with the fact that he won’t be able to avenge the loss.
"It doesn’t matter for me if he’s in or out of Bellator," he said. "Either way, I’m going to fight for the title. That’s my goal. Whoever it is, I’ll be ready.
"It’s not my fault that he’s out of Bellator and I just want my shot at the title. People can say whatever they want. They can say that (Askren) is the real champion after I beat Hawn, but that doesn’t bother me at all. I just want to beat whoever they put in front of me."
Still recovering from a hand surgery, Lima watched Rick Hawn’s knockout win over Ron Keslar at the season 9 welterweight tournament final on Nov. 22.
Riding a four-fight win streak with four knockouts, Lima anticipates a good match-up with the fellow tournament winner.
"I expected a more competitive fight," he said. "I didn’t know much about Keslar but I saw that he’s tough and has good jiu-jitsu. But Hawn was the favorite and showed it why in the fight. It was a beautiful knockout and made me more excited to fight for the title against him. It’s going to be a great fight for the fans, I can assure you that."
"My dream is to win that title," Lima continued. "I’ve lost my first attempt and that made me hungrier. I won’t stop now. I’m a man on a mission and I will accomplish it. It’s a dream for me. I’m the MFC champion and I want to do the same at Bellator. I will bring this title home for myself, my family and fans."