Los Angeles, CA — Bellator heavyweight champion Ryan Bader knew heading into his Bellator 290 rematch with Fedor Emelianenko that he would not be fighting in front of a “pro-Bader” crowd.
He was also well aware of expectations: having defeated Fedor in under a minute in their first meeting, he was expected to win the rematch. That didn’t make the fight any less dangerous, as he explained following Saturday’s event on CBS.
“Him in there, winging those punches at me too, that hard right hand, that’s going to knock anybody out if it connects,” Bader noted, speaking to media outlets including Cageside Press. “So I think that’s the biggest part of it, kind of was the pressure. You’re supposed to go in there and beat him soundly, and luckily I did.”
Following the fight, a small army of Fedor’s peers were brought into the cage to pay their respects to the man many see as the greatest heavyweight of all time. Fedor’s swan song doubled as the promotion’s debut on CBS, adding to the special feel of the night.
“Too see all those guys in one cage, it’s pretty surreal. Just to be a part of that too,” Bader said of the experience. “Darth” Bader took a moment to speak to the Russian legend after defeating him for the second time, another first-round stoppage.
“It is bittersweet. He’s a legend. He’s one of my favorite fights, for sure,” Bader admitted. “But I had a job to do, and that’s what I did.”
“At the end of the day, that was a cool way to go out for him,” Bader added. “They did a really good job with that.”
Ryan Bader has now won all of his heavyweight fights save for a No Contest in his first meeting with Cheick Kongo. With his light heavyweight days behind him, he’s now looking ahead to what comes next. Which could be another rematch, truth be told.
“I would love some new blood. I know [Valentin] Moldavsky and Linton Vassell are fighting pretty soon, and that would be the logical one,” Bader said. “What are they fighting, end of March or something? I don’t know. Some new blood would be nice, but I don’t know who.”
“Logically that would be next, but maybe there’s something else,” he later added. “I don’t know.”
As for the possibility of fighting free agent Francis Ngannou, Bader was less than enthused, saying he doesn’t believe “The Predator” will sign with Bellator, and is more likely to head to boxing.
Watch the full Bellator 290 post-fight press conference with Ryan Bader above.