Los Angeles, CA — It’s official: the Bellator light heavyweight grand prix will continue this October, right in Ryan Bader’s back yard.
Bader, the former 205lb champ and current heavyweight champion in the promotion, is in a unique situation. When the promotion heads to Phoenix, AZ, where Bader attended ASU and now trains out of, he’ll have not one but two opponents gunning for him.
In the tournament, of course, there’s Corey Anderson. That’s the man Bader will meet in the grand prix semifinals, on October 16. Then there’s Valentin Moldavsky, who recently won an interim title at heavyweight. Bader will, at some point, likely be paired up with the Russian.
So how does a fighter handle having two opponents targeting him? It might be cliche, but “kind of one at a time,” Bader told Cageside Press in an exclusive interview Saturday, just after the grand prix semifinal date was announced. For Ryan Bader, it’s about what’s in front of you. “And right now, it’s the light heavyweight division. This grand prix, I’m worried about that. And when the time comes, when I’m going back to heavyweight, I’ll worry about what’s going on there. I can only do what’s in front of me, I can’t fight two fights at the same time.”
“I don’t really think about it too much,” added Bader, “I just do what I’m told, ‘hey when’s the next fight? what weight? Let’s go!'”
Fighting at home for a change — for the first time in his Bellator MMA run, in fact — brings with it one key difference, he told us. “I have friends and family there, a ton of them. From my wrestling roots at ASU. My friends, family, all that kind of stuff. That’s the only difference,” said Bader. “I’ve been around the world, I’ve fought literally around the world, and everything’s been the same. You walk into the same cage, and you compete. So I try not to let outside forces mess with me at all.”
Bader will spend the week prior to the fight in his hotel room, “doing the same routine I usually do that has made me successful throughout my career.”
Corey Anderson, Bader’s semifinal opponent, is not exactly an unfamiliar foe. The pair both fought in the UFC, and have trained together. In the build-up to the grand prix, Anderson frequently hinted at getting the better of “Darth” Bader in training.
“We trained together five years ago, and then seven years ago. I don’t take too much stock in any of that,” Bader said of the pair’s time together. “We all evolve. I’ve evolved, he’s evolved. At the end of the day, you see fighters all the time that are great in practice, and terrible in competition, and vice versa.”
“You can take certain things,” Bader allowed, “but for me, I take literally zero stock in taking anything away from training.”
Watch our full interview with Bellator light heavyweight grand prix semifinalist Ryan Bader above. A separate media scrum can be viewed below.