Bellator light heavyweight champion Ryan Bader, who is gearing up for a title defense against Vadim Nemkov at Bellator 244, believes he could be the best light heavyweight competing right now.
Bader, who was previously a top-5 UFC light heavyweight, believes that with Daniel Cormier retired, and Jon Jones moving up to heavyweight, he has legitimate claim to that lofty label.
“Arguably, right now you can say the winner of this fight is one of the best heavyweights right now that’s out there,” Bader told MMA Junkie ahead of his Bellator 244 fight with Nemkov. “DC retired and had a great career. He was always up there. Then, obviously, Jon Jones was one of the greatest of all time. I think that the whole division was in his shadow. Him moving up definitely opens it up.
“With my accomplishments, it’s not like I haven’t been there. I was a top-five guy consistently in there. I’ve grown as a fighter since I came over here – tremendously. Yeah, you can argue the winner of this fight is the best light heavyweight right now.”
Bader lost to Jones back in 2011, and was scheduled to fight Cormier in 2015, but the bout never came to fruition.
In hindsight, he believes he’s much better equipped to defeat Cormier now than he was when they were originally expected to meet.
“You look at fights you wish you woulda, shoulda, coulda,” Bader said. “That was a big fight. I was in training camp for it, and he got pulled out to fight for the title. I’d like to have that fight now where I am in my career now – how I am mentally (and) physically rather than back then. I’m a totally different fighter, a complete fighter, so now would be the time.”
Over the course of his career, Ryan Bader has picked up wins over the likes of Keith Jardine, Antonio Rogerio Nogeuira (twice), Quinton “Rampage” Jackson, Vladimir Matyushkenko, Ovince Saint Preux, Phil Davis (twice), Rashad Evans, Ilir Latifi, Linton Vassell, Muhammed “King Mo” Lawal, Matt Mitrione, and Fedor Emelianenko.
Where do you think he ranks among the sport’s best light heavyweights?