Over the weekend, Ryan Bader and Fedor Emelianenko both won their Bellator Heavyweight Grand Prix semifinal bouts, defeating Matt Mitrione and Chael Sonnen respectively. With these wins, the pair will now fight each other sometime in the new year, and the winner will be crowned the Bellator heavyweight champion.
For Ryan Bader, the chance to fight the legendary Fedor Emelianenko is obviously an exciting opportunity. Yet while he admits it’s a little surreal to fight such an icon of the sport, he assures he’s approaching it like any other fight.
“It’s kind of surreal – but not,” Ryan Bader told the media after Fedor Emelianenko defeat Chael Sonnen at Bellator 208 (via MMAjunkie). “I’ve been in there with guys like that, guys that I kind of idolized coming up and standing across the cage from them. No different with Fedor. It’s one of those things where when you get that opponent, you know you’re fighting a guy. It’s just a man, a name, and somebody standing in your way.”
Ryan Bader also broke down Fedor Emelianenko’s win over Chael Sonnen, and what he learned from it.
“Fedor looked impressive,” Bader said “He went out there and got after it right away. Chael got in his face and started putting that pressure on him. Fedor was throwing back hard, and he’s throwing those three, four, five punch combos. As the fight went on, I wish I got to see a second round. I thought it would start to turn a little bit in Chael’s favor if it got to the second round, but overall Fedor looked impressive. I’m excited. I’m ready. It got me going.”
“Chael took him down with kind of a single-leg, a low, low single,” Ryan Bader continued. “It’s crazy because Fedor showed incredible balance in certain positions but kind of got taken down by a low single. I shoot my shots a little different than Chael. I’m trying to either blow you off your feet, or I don’t get it and I stay in a good position. I never like to be anywhere with my knees on the mat shooting, at all. Definitely I saw some things.”
“That was a good reminder right there with Chael coming in there and getting right in his face and kind of coming into a buzzsaw right away,” he concluded. “Fedor, that’s his M.O. You come in, he’s going to throw three punches at least at you, and they come from weird angles. Can you beat him to the punch because he has his hands down? Yeah. You want to play that game all the time, though? Probably not. You’ve got to be patient. I come out and I fight different opponents totally different ways.”
Who do you think will come out on top when Ryan Bader and Fedor Emelianenko fight for gold in the new year?
This article first appeared on BJPENN.COM on 10/14/2018.