One of the more underrated light heavyweight competitors of the last decade has been the winner of The Ultimate Fighter season 8 and current Bellator 205-pound champion, Ryan ‘Darth’ Bader.
Bader has fought practically his entire MMA career in the UFC but has recently ventured over to Bellator where he’s had nothing but success. That’s not to say he didn’t find success in the UFC either though as he amassed a record of 15-5 with the organization before they decided to let him walk as a free agent. Including Bellator and UFC, better has won nine of his last ten fights.
Now already a champion with his new fighting home, Bader is already looking for a second title to add to his resume as he takes part in the Bellator Heavyweight Grand Prix which will decide a new heavyweight champion. Bader is still in the opening part of the bracket but has his sights set on the finals and told MMAJunkie that he hopes for it to be against someone specific.
“If I had my pick to fight somebody in the final, I’d love to fight Fedor [Emelianenko] in the finals. I think everybody in this tournament, that’s their pick. He’s a legend of the sport, and to cap it off with a win over him to be the heavyweight champion? That’s the ultimate fairytale right there. But I can see either of those guys advancing [Fedor or Frank Mir], and I could even see Chael [Sonnen] making it.
Each of them bring their own thing. Fedor has the mystique about him and beating him, he’s a legend. But Chael’s also going to be running his mouth to build the fight. That’s a fun fight. I’ve always wanted to step in there with him. And Mir too, he’s got skills, and I’d like to test that. But I’ve got to win my side too, and that’s what I’m focusing on.”
Before Bader can get to the finals he will have to make his ways through Muhammad ‘King Mo’ Lawal and Matt Mitrione. Mitrione, who has already advanced after defeating Roy Nelson, awaits the winner between Bader and Mo on May 12th in Bellator 199’s main event.
As for Bader’s first challenge in the tournament, he thinks this could be the toughest opponent he’ll have.
“Mo does things very, very well, but he doesn’t do a lot of things; he just doesn’t. He doesn’t kick a lot. He just likes to box and wrestle. He’s good at that. But I think his cardio isn’t there all the time whereas mine, I go in there and push that pace, and I break a lot of people on that alone. It’s going to be one of those things where the physicality overwhelms him.
I’ve always believed I was going to win from the beginning but watching these fights, you see their holes, what you can exploit, and what they’re good at. I have one of the toughest first-round fights in the tournament with Mo. Then I move on to the big boys. Matt Mitrione, he’s fast, and he’s agile. One of the things I took away from his fight was his wrestling. My wrestling is high-level, so that’s one thing I can exploit. But that’s what’s fun about this tournament: You can go in there and every guy is different.”
Do you like Bader and Fedor’s chances of making it to the finals?
This article first appeared on BJPenn.com on 3/26/2018