Bellator double champion Ryan Bader is set to return to light heavyweight for the first time since 2017 to defend his championship against Vadim Nemkov, ESPN reports.
Bader has been at the helm of two divisions since he knocked out Fedor Emelianenko in January 2019, but he first won the Light Heavyweight Championship in June 2017 before defending it five months later against Linton Vassell.
Now, after almost three years away from the light heavyweight division, he’s ready to step back into the cage against Nemkov at Bellator 244 on August 21 in Uncasville, Connecticut.
“I’m excited about it,” Bader told ESPN. “There was a lack of options where I thought I was going to fight at heavyweight again, but they can get him into the country [from Russia], and that’s the fight. He definitely deserves a title shot at light heavyweight. It’s one of those fights I’ve been looking at for a long time. It’s an intriguing fight and I’m ready to go down and defend.”
“I obviously want to keep both of these belts,” Bader added. “I can bounce back and forth pretty easily. For me, right now I’d like to defend the belt at 205 and fight again at 205, while my body is primed for that weight. It’s been some years since I’ve been down there, due to no fault on my side they just asked me to come do this heavyweight tournament and defend the heavyweight title right after the Grand Prix. I’d like to get a couple fights at 205. Go out there, beat Nemkov, then turn around and give Machida a title shot, get that loss back. I’d also like to fight in Japan, fight for the Rizin FF belt, finish the year with three belts.”
Bader, 37, clearly has a vision in his mind for what he wants to accomplish in 2020, and you can’t say he isn’t shooting for the stars.
The man he’ll be taking on, Nemkov, is nearly 10 years his junior at the age of 28. He holds an 11-2 professional record and a 4-0 record in Bellator, with his last bout coming in October 2019 when he submitted former middleweight champ Rafael Carvalho.
Bader’s career rejuvenation has highlighted just how much a fighter can benefit from jumping ship to Bellator, to the point where he has even discussed the possibility of facing UFC light heavyweight king Jon Jones in a rematch of their 2011 meeting.
“Gotta do what’s best for you @JonnyBones There is always another option tho. @BellatorMMA would love to run it back. Respect”.
Do you think Ryan Bader will successfully defend his title next month?