Ryan Bader knocked off the top seed in the Bellator World Heavyweight Grand Prix at Bellator 207 on Friday night, and he’s looking to the legendary Fedor Emelianenko next, given his choice.
Uncasville, CT — Ryan Bader faced the biggest opponent of his career, quite literally, at Bellator 207 on Friday night. At the Mohegan Sun Arena, in the heart of the Mohegan Sun Casino, a small city of a facility, Bader took on Matt Mitrione, the man favored from the outset to win the Bellator World Heavyweight Grand Prix. Bader, a perennial top five at light heavyweight and current Bellator 205lb champion, went out and made it look like just another day at the office. Mitrione spent the bulk of the fight on his back, with Bader using his wrestling to completely dominate ‘Meathead.’
That means Bader is one fight away from being a dual champion, and holding both the light heavyweight and heavyweight titles. After knocking out “moneyweight” King Mo Lawal in the opening round, it was another impressive showing for ‘Darth’ Bader. And now, he can allow himself to look ahead, to the idea of becoming a double champ, and to who he’d like to meet in the finale.
Backstage following the event, Bader addressed the media, and on the topic of Bellator 207, he admitted that he “wasn’t surprised in the outcome and how it went.”
“Going into this fight, I’m not going to go in there and slug it out with a 255lb heavyweight whose bread and butter is being quick and throwing bombs,” Bader said. “For me, going in here, I haven’t been hit in this whole tournament. I haven’t been hit in the Mo fight, I haven’t been hit in the face in the Mitrione fight. And I’m in the finals of the grand prix. That was a dominant performance, went out there and used that grappling, and mauled him.”
Just one day later, Fedor Emelianenko would be facing Chael Sonnen in ther other World Heavyweight Grand Prix semi-final. Asked for his preference on who to face, Bader answered that “if I’m picking for the whole mystique and nostalgia of it, I’m picking Fedor. To win the heavyweight grand prix, the title, be a two division champion, and doing it beating Fedor, it doesn’t get any better than that.”
With Chael and other wrestlers, Bader suggested he’s been fighting those his entire career, and he does extraordinarily well against wrestlers. Fedor, however, is an unknown, which makes it an attractive challenge.
While Bader ultimately took Matt Mitrione to a decision on Friday at Bellator 207, it did seem there were moments where he could have finished the fight. “With the punches, the ref was really on me about hitting the ear, and I wasn’t trying to hit him in the back of the head or anything like that,” Bader said of one particular sequence that saw Mitrione at his mercy. “One thing I was surprised at, what I finished Linton Vassell with, he’s a little skinny around the waist and whatnot, I have a wrist ride and I start dropping bombs. With Matt, it was harder to keep him down there. So all he had to do was kind of turn his head, and the ref was on me about hitting the back of his head, even when I was getting close to that ear. So I had to be careful there. I felt like I could have potentially finished the fight there a few times.”
Beyond that, he was close to submission finish as well. “I had a kimura, which I didn’t see his hand raised about to tap, but his length, it was just kind of off on that kimura. I tried to step over his head but kind of lost it.”
As for the experience of fighting his friend, Bader told Cageside Press that “he brought his own different style to the fight. He was longer than I thought he would be. As far as when he stretches out his hands, he’s long, and he can move well. And when he had a burst at me, he was throwing for broke right there. He put everything he can into his big frame and tried to knock me out right there.” That said, for Bader, it’s not personal, something both men were consistent about heading in. “I do this every day against guys that are my best friends. We train together, we go hard against each other, I’ve fought friends befoer. It’s a competition for me, I’m not trying to hurt him, I’m trying to go in there and get my hand raised.”