Bellator MMA light heavyweight champion Ryan Bader talks about the quality of opponents in the Bellator Heavyweight Grand Prix.
Tony Reid – You made quick work of King Mo at Bellator 199 in the first round of the Bellator Heavyweight Grand Prix. What are your thoughts on the way the fight played out?
Ryan Bader – “He doesn’t do a whole lot but what he does he does well. I just felt like I do everything a little better. I felt good about it. I thought I would be able to get my hands on him and I felt confident in my striking. I’ve been there and fought nothing but top ten guys for I don’t even know how long. I am in a different part of my career right now. I am peaking. I am in my prime now. It’s the perfect time for me to be in this Heavyweight tournament.”
TR – Your run through Bellator to this point has been very impressive. Everyone in the community is excited for this tournament. It’s a nice throwback to the early PRIDE or Strikeforce tournaments. How cool is it to be a part of that kind of tournament in this day and age in MMA?
RB – “It’s great. I came up in high school and college watching the early tournaments and hoping one day I would get to do something like this. When it was first announced, to see the legends of the sport involved, it was super exciting. Every fight in this tournament is exciting for us because everyone is a potential opponent. Watching the Fedor Emelianenko and Frank Mir fight was fun because that is a potential opponent. It’s fun for us because we are invested in all of these fights in the tournament and we get to see how it plays out and we know who I am fighting after a win, it’s not just some unknown guy. It’s been great having fights on the horizon and knowing who is next.”
TR – Like you mentioned every fighter in this tournament is a legend in the sport. Each fight, it could be argued, is a legacy fight on some level. Do you see it that way?
RB – “The Mo was cool because I think I would have probably fought him at light heavyweight for the belt anyway. Now we’ve had that fight and we move on to true heavyweight fights, like my next fight with Mitrione. This next fight will be where I step up and fight a true heavyweight and a guy that is a lot heavier than I am. He moves well. He moves like a middleweight. He has excellent striking. For me, I feel like it’s a good matchup. Where he is overall a good mixed martial artist, his strength lies in his striking. But his weaknesses lie where my strengths are. I see a good opportunity there. If you fast forward after that I would fight Chael Sonnen or Fedor Emelianenko. The dream matchup for anybody would be a matchup with Fedor in the finals for the Heavyweight Grand Prix title. It doesn’t get any bigger or better than that. If that doesn’t happen you are fighting Sonnen and I think I match up very well with him, too. I like to look at the big picture but at the same time you keep it small and focus on the fight in front of you and worry about that right now. Mitrione is on my mind now.”
TR – We know your background and all you have accomplished, if someone would have said a few years ago that you would potentially fight Fedor in the finals of a Grand Prix tournament would you have said they were out of their mind?
RB – “You never know what life will throw at you, especially in this crazy game of Mixed Martial Arts. When I left the UFC and came over to Bellator that was a big selling point to me, the ability to do stuff like this. It was flat out asked, was I open to this or that. That was refreshing and something I was looking forward to. When they told us about the grand prix we said yes and we didn’t even know who or what it was. I am happy right now in my career, where I am at and it’s cool to get to do something different.”
TR – As you sit here holding the Bellator Light Heavyweight title it has to have crossed your mind that if you win this tournament you will be a multi division champion. What are your thoughts on becoming a two-division simultaneous champion?
RB – “Yeah that would look pretty good! I am excited about that. I came in with goals, one was wining the belt. I accomplished that and then defended it. Then you are looking forward to what’s next. Defending the belt again? No. Let’s go with something even bigger. This is out there and it’s attainable. That is the ultimate goal. It can’t get much bigger than that. That is the top, right there. I am always the guy looking for a bigger goal or challenge. So what’s after that? Defending the light heavyweight belt and the heavyweight belt.”
TR – Speaking of your light heavyweight title, you defended against Linton Vassell back at Bellator 186. Do you agree with the thought that you have to defend the title to be a true champion?
RB – “Yeah, a little bit. When you win the belt you are deserving. I beat Phil Davis, a top three guy in the world. Then going in there and stopping Linton Vassell, I think he’s a top six guy in the world. He’s funky and he’s grown a tremendous amount over the years. That was a really good win. I just want to keep that momentum going and now I am able to advance in the tournament, too. I want to keep the momentum going and stay on a roll.”