Ryan Bader and King Mo were the final Bellator World Heavyweight Grand Prix opening round fight. Now that the dust has settled, Bader may very well be a favorite to win the tournament.
“A one punch knockout, and get out of there, in a tournament style, that’s a big thing,” Ryan Bader commented following his fifteen second knockout win over King Mo Lawal at Bellator 199 on Saturday in San Jose. He’s not wrong. “I could have went in there and got lumped up and maybe won, but then I’m taking a month, month plus off. Now I get to compound on all the work I already put in.”
Bader’s win shocked many, who expected a long, grinding, grueling grappling battle in the main event. Instead, they got a reasonable facsimile of a heavyweight bout from a pair of light heavyweights. It came with its share of trash talk, mostly from Mo, which Bader shrugged off when the dust settled. “I respect Mo,” he said during the post-fight presser, with Cageside Press in attendance. After all there’s “always some talk before a fight. He’s a competitor. I went out there and got the job done. It’s an honor fighting him, I competed against him back in the day. It’s crazy to think that sixteen, seventeen years later, eighteen years later, we’re doing it again, at a huge stage. So much respect to him.”
Moving forward, with a statement win under his belt, Bader may appear to be the favorite. In his mind, he always was. “I’m not really into the whole favorite, betting favorite kind of stuff, but I thought I was the favorite coming in regardless.”
Looking back and cherishing the victory may be short lived in the Grand Prix format however. “Now I have [Matt] Mitrione,” Bader noted, “who’s a true heavyweight. I’m actually stepping up into the heavyweight division now. He’s big, he’s quick. I feel like this is the fight where I’m kind of coming into that.” There’s likely to be a lot of questions to come, despite King Mo being one of the “tougher guys in the tournament.” Because as Bader pointed out, “body wise, I’m used to fighting guys like that.”
“It gets real now. It’s heavyweight,” he continued. “I’m going to have to bring some guys in to emulate that. I’ll gain a little bit of weight, but I’m going to keep what makes me good also. I’m going to be good, I’m going to be fast, in shape, I’m looking forward to that fight.”
On upcoming opponent Meathead, who Bader referred to as a “buddy,” he observed that “he moves really well for a big guy. He’s good on his feet, he’s lanky and big. Where he lacks a little bit is his wrestling, where I’m good at.”
The fifteen second KO surprised many — but how might things have gone if the fight had lasted a little longer? Bader told Cageside Press that “we knew he was going to keep ducking his head to the right. He came out and threw that jab, he doesn’t really keep his right hand up. It makes him awkward, it makes him good, because he can throw that right hand from anywhere and you can’t really see it.” With that in mind, the plan was “to start throwing some kicks in there. Not just box with him. Even take him down a little bit. I just felt that if we got into that mode of trading shots, I was going to be more resilient.”
Despite the “buddy” label, Ryan Bader says he’ll have no issues moving forward against Mittrione. “I fought with my good buddies on the Ultimate Fighter,” he pointed out.
“I can elbow him in the face and we can be friends after.”
Check out the full post-fight press scrum with Ryan Bader above. Bader will meet Matt Mitrone in the semi-finals of Bellator’s World Heavyweight Grand Prix later this year.