Ryan Bader is the last man standing following Bellator 214 and the conclusion of the World Heavyweight Grand Prix, and following the bout, reflected on legacy — both his, and Fedor Emelianenko’s.
Los Angeles, CA — When Ryan Bader made the move from the UFC to Bellator MMA, few saw the likeable but workmanlike light heavyweight hitting the heights he now has. Most saw him as a lock for light heavyweight gold at some point. But moving up to heavyweight and claiming the title there as well? Winning a heavyweight grand prix by knocking out the legendary Fedor Emelianenko? Not in a million years.
That, however, is where things were after Bellator 214. Bader is now the most recent “champ champ” in MMA. He has won seven straight fights dating back to his UFC run. Outside of Jon Jones and Daniel Cormier, he’s the best talent in the light heavyweight division.
“This kind of solidifies that I’m one of the best, pound-for-pound, out there,” Bader reflected following the fight in Los Angeles on Saturday. “I feel like I’m in my prime right now. So there’s a lot more to go. So I haven’t even really begun to scratch the surface on legacy and all that stuff.”
There’s defending those belts, of course. “I’m the light heavyweight champion. I go to fight Fedor, one of the best of all time, in a grand prix style tournament and become a two-division champion. What else is there to do?” he asked. “I can’t drop to 185.”
No, no he can’t. Bader is a big light heavyweight, which has served him well in the heavyweight grand prix. And whether he defends the 205lb title next, or his newly-won heavyweight strap, he will always have that big name on his record: Fedor Emelianenko.
“If I had the opportunity to fight any fighter, if you asked me when I started fighting, it would be Fedor,” he said during the post-fight press conference. “That aura, that mystique about him. Look what he’s done in this heavyweight tournament. He goes out there and finishes two tough guys in the first round. Props to him, he comes out here and does a heavyweight tournament with a bunch of killers and makes it to the finals.”
“I was very honored to be part of his story and now have him be part of my story,” he added. “What happened tonight, you can take nothing away from Fedor. He’s put in that work and cemented his legacy.”
So how will the new double champ celebrate? With family. But it’s not the celebration that Bader was looking forward to. “The best feeling is, you fall asleep at night, like tonight right? And you wake up, and every morning of this week, you’re like ‘what day is it? Oh I’ve got weigh ins today. Oh sh*t it’s fight day,'” he explained.
“Tomorrow I get to wake up, open my eyes and say ‘man I’m the heavyweight champion. And light heavyweight champion. And I just beat Fedor.’ That’s a good morning right there.”
Watch the full Bellator 214 post-fight press scrum with Ryan Bader above.