Bellator 214: Ryan Bader Excited to Be Part of Fedor’s Story, Have Legend Be Part of His

Ryan Bader has a chance to be the next “champ champ” in MMA, and is thrilled to be part of Fedor’s story — and have Fedor be part of his.

Los Angeles, CA — Saturday night in Los Angeles at The Forum, Ryan Bader will enter into the biggest fight of his career. That is neither hyperbole nor cliche. While fighters love to say that the next fight is always the biggest, there’s no question that the chance at a second title, against heavyweight legend Fedor Emelianenko, is indeed the biggest bout of Bader’s long career. Winning the Bellator World Heavyweight Grand Prix? Another accomplishment in a career of many.

The finale has been a long time coming for fight fans. The grand prix has been spread out over a full year. Bader, however, told Cageside Press that there was an upside to that. “I got to look at it from the outside and see these different dates. And see the light at the end of the tunnel, with the final fight.” Patience, then, wasn’t that much of an issue. “For me it’s been super cool, I got to keep my head down.”

It’s nothing new to ‘Darth’ Bader, who competed in wrestling in college. “This is what I’ve been doing my entire life. With wrestling tournaments, I’ve been in these bracketed tournaments. Seasons, we’ve always started in October and ended in March in a big finale, the national championship.”

As a result, 2018 was kind of just another year, but Bader admitted Thursday that he was “extra motivated because I’ve known what fights I have. I know who I’m going to face next. Where, when you’re fighting, and you go to win a fight, usually it’s months and months before you know an opponent and a date.”

Bader, of course, holds Bellator’s light heayweight title. He dispatched the top contender in that weight class, King Mo, as part of the heavyweight grand prix. A constant question has been whether Bader intends to drop back down and defend the title there.

“We’ll see what happens,” Bader said of the prospect. “It’s one of those things where, go out here and get a win, be two division champion. I want to keep doing stuff that not a lot of people are doing. Defending it. It’s one of those things, we’ll have to see where I go from here.” First thing’s first, however.

“I’ve got a fight in front of me right now, though. So I gotta go out there and do that, first and foremost.” After that, Bader told us that “I haven’t thought too much about it, but I’m sure Bellator has a plan for me.”

No doubt they do.

One side effect of the grand prix has been a reevaluation of Ryan Bader’s career. In the past, the narrative seemed to be “also ran.” Always the bridesmaid, never the bride. Yet as he has dominated in Bellator and now a new weight class, that is shifting. Quality of competition is talked about more.

Asked if he had noticed that, Bader admitted he had, “a little bit.” In the end though, his team, his friends, the people around him know just how good he is.

“I haven’t lost two fights in a row my whole entire career, besides one time. And that was kind of a low point in my career, where I was like ‘okay, I need to change some stuff,'” he pointed out. “From then on out, I’ve had some losses, but I’ve always learned and changed from those losses.”

“For me, I feel like I’m hitting my stride now,” Bader added. “It’s perfect timing. I’m here, I get to do this. And fight one of the greatest heavyweights of all time for the heavyweight championship.”

Fighting the legendary Fedor Emelianenko, meanwhile, is “a cool experience for me. We get to get it on, I get to be part of his story and he gets to be part of mine.”

Bellator 214 takes place Saturday, January 26 at The Forum in Los Angeles. The event airs live on Paramount Network and DAZN.