Ryan Bader Sees Bellator Heavyweight Grand Prix Fight As Extension of Fighting Toughest Guys at Light Heavyweight

Ryan Bader Bellator MMA
Ryan Bader vs. Linton Vassell Credit: Mike McClory/Cageside Press

Ryan Bader sees his fight with King Mo as an extension of his career at light heavyweight, where Mo would have been next in line for a title shot.

Bellator Light Heavyweight champion Ryan Bader is taking a hiatus from the 205lb division to participate in Bellator’s World Heavyweight Grand Prix 2018. As a light heavyweight in a field that includes some big natural heavyweights in Roy Nelson, Matt Mitrione, and Frank Mir, how does ‘Darth’ Bader plan to tackle the challenges ahead?

Bader sat down with Cageside Press ahead of Bellator 192 on Saturday to discuss the tournament, his preparation, and the light heavyweight situation.

“I’m not going to eat like crap to gain crap weight”

On what he’s changing up in advance of moving up in weight, Bader told us that “the training kind of stays the same. We tweak a few things.” One key, “we add in a little more strength and conditioning. So I’m a big, fast 230, 235. I’m walking around about probably 230, 232 right now. But in training camp for a light heavyweight fight, I cut out some of that strength and conditioning. I end up getting down to like 220, and kind of going from there.”

Bader doesn’t intend to just pack on pounds for the sake of packing on pounds. “I’m always going to eat healthy, I’m not going to eat like crap to gain crap weight” he said. “So I’m going to put on a good, lean, fast 7 to 10 pounds. And then keep my speed, keep everything that keeps me good.”

The reigning Bellator light heavyweight champion told Cageside Press back in November that he was interested in testing the waters at heavyweight and becoming a two-division champion. When afforded the opportunity, was there anything said about 205lb title defenses? Bader defeated Linton Vassell at Bellator 186 in his first title defense, and it could be a year before the title is defended again.

Bader says the opportunity came with the assurance from Bellator that he could keep the light heavyweight title. The promotion in essence said ‘you can keep your light heavyweight title, we’ll put it on the shelf for a little bit, it’s there when you come back. Do you want to do this heavyweight tournament?'” To which Bader’s response was “hell yeah lets go!”

“The light heavyweight title is going to be there,” Bader concluded, “and I’m going to defend it after I go win this heavyweight belt.”

Coincidentally or not, the man who Bader is facing in the opening round of the Bellator World Heavyweight Grand Prix, King Mo Lawal, would likely have been the next title challenger at 205. “He would definitely be next” Bader told us. “I look at those three guys, kind of the toughest guys. I’m going to fight him [King Mo] in May, then you’ve got Vassell, and then you got Phil Davis.” Bader accurately pointed out that “I came out of the gate fighting the toughest guys in that division. I feel this fight is kind of an extension off that, although it’s not for the light heavyweight title.”

So what can fans expect from Ryan Bader vs. King Mo? “I think it’s going to be a fun fight” the champion told us.

“I’m going in there looking for a finish” he added. “It’s a three round fight, which I haven’t fought in a while. I’ve been used to fighting five round fights. It’s a different approach, different training. Every time you show up to practice, and you’re sparring, you’re in there with, for five rounds, a new guy. So this is going to be a fun training camp, a fun fight, to be able to come out of the gate even harder knowing it’s a three-rounder.”