Bellator 244: In Wake of Jones Vacating Title, Ryan Bader Makes Case As Best Light Heavyweight

With the coronavirus pandemic in full swing, Bellator light heavyweight champion Ryan Bader took the initiative to ensure he and his training partners were tested for the virus “every couple of weeks” ahead of his title fight at Bellator 244.

His camp consisted of “three, four, five guys at a high level that I needed for this fight.” The testing was frankly because, with a May date against Vadim Nemkov already pushed back to August, “the last thing I wanted to do was go through another training camp, wait some more, get here, and get cancelled because somebody has COVID.”

Still, Bader said at the Bellator 244 media day on Wednesday, “the camp was pretty much the same. The only thing was, I usually bring people in. I usually bring a decent amount of Brazilians in. This time I didn’t, I kept with the crew that I was working with.”

Outside of the U.S. itself, Brazil has been one of the hardest-hit nations during the pandemic. So that decision is probably a wise one.

Bader’s fight at Bellator 244 took on a new context when Jon Jones announced he was vacating the UFC’s light heavyweight title. That fact has not been lost on “Darth” Bader, who has been one of the top 205lb’ers in the world for years, both in and out of the UFC.

“Arguably you can say that the winner of this fight is the best light heavyweight out there right now. How can you not?” questioned Bader. “We’ve both proven ourselves. I know he’s more inexperienced a little bit, but he still has 13, 14 fights. I’ve been there, done that, I’m a double champ, I’ve fought in both organizations.”

“I’m 13-1 in my last 14 fights, with one no contest.” Again, reiterated Bader, how could you not consider the winner of Bellator 244’s main event not to be the best in the world?

Especially when it comes to Bader himself. Arizona-based “Darth” Bader has beat a who’s who of the sport. He has just one loss since 2013, to Rumble Johnson. And wins over Ovince St. Preux, Phil Davis, Ilir Latifi, Rashad Evans, Little Nog, King Mo, and other light heavyweights. Not to mention his heavyweight run.

“Look at my resume, look at who I beat, look at my wins, and look at how I’ve grown these last X amount of years, 3, 4 years,” said Bader. “I haven’t lost in I think the last four years. It’s not like I’m fighting bums out here, I’m fighting the best competition out there. And I’ve been a perennial top five guy in the UFC before I left, and I’ve grown so much since then. I’m leaps and bounds better than I was five years ago, better than I was a year ago, and ongoing.”

He’ll have another chance to prove that Friday, in a fight that has been a long time coming. Bader last competed in September 2019, a heavyweight title fight against Cheick Kongo that ended in a No Contest after an eye poke.

He’s been prepared to fight ever since. “Scott Coker and I were trying to get that RIZIN fight for the title, the New Year’s Eve card. We were trying to book a fight in February in Arizona, the venue fell through,” Bader told Cageside Press during Wednesday’s Bellator 244 media day. “Then we had one finally booked in May, then obviously COVID hit, nobody’s fault, and we got pushed back. So I’m just extremely grateful to be here right now.”

Bellator 244 takes place this Friday, August 21 at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, CT. The main card airs live on Paramount Network and DAZN.