Bellator 214: Refreshed Ryan Bader forcing his way into pound-for-pound conversation | MMA

So far as Ryan Bader is anxious, the one manner his transition to competing underneath the Bellator MMA banner may have gone any higher is that if he would have made extra of an announcement in his debut victory over Phil Davis.

“Perhaps [if I had] put an even bigger stamp on coming over and beating Phil Davis extra convincingly, however aside from that, [no],” stated the reigning gentle heavyweight champion when requested about his first 18 months with the corporate, which produced a 4-Zero document and a spot within the finals of the World Heavyweight Grand Prix this weekend at Bellator 214.

“I came visiting, received the belt in Madison Sq. Backyard, defended the belt in opposition to a tricky opponent (Linton Vassell), completed him, [scored a] 15-second knockout (in opposition to Muhammed Lawal) after which dominated top-of-the-line heavyweights in Bellator who would in all probability be combating for the heavyweight title if this match wasn’t happening (Matt Mitrione), so it’s going nice proper now.

“I’ve one left within the match in opposition to one of many biggest of all-time,” added Bader, who squares off with Fedor Emelianenko within the match finale on Saturday evening at The Discussion board in Inglewood, California, with the heavyweight title hanging within the steadiness.

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When the match bracket was unveiled, this was the matchup many individuals forecasted and Emelianenko is the one Bader hoped he would face within the finals.

Though he was one among 4 pure gentle heavyweights entered into the eight-man competitors, the 35-year-old veteran was immediately pegged as the favourite to run the desk and win the entire thing. Now that he’s solely a few days away from the battle he had hoped for and a possibility to make historical past as the primary two-weight world champion in Bellator MMA historical past, the battle-tested Bader is doing his greatest to maintain his pleasure and his nerves in examine.

“I’ve bought to examine myself some occasions as a result of I begin getting a bit hyped,” he stated with reference to sharing the cage with the enduring Russian. “I’ve nerves earlier than each battle — it doesn’t matter who I’m combating — and each battle is your greatest battle, so I’ve at all times bought to examine myself. However I’ve been in there with everyone. I bear in mind standing throughout from Rampage Jackson after I was youthful — I watched him after I was developing — after which I used to be combating him in Japan. Standing throughout from these large names is nothing new and I respect the hell out of him, however I’ve one thing to try this evening.”

He added: “For me, I have a look at it as he’s one of many biggest of all time and he represents himself and the game very nicely, however he can’t convey his previous wins in there.”

The 42-year-old Emelianenko is arguably the best heavyweight of all-time and one of the vital universally revered fighters within the MMA historical past.

In the course of the first 33 appearances, the person often called “The Final Emperor” earned 31 victories, with the lone blemishes on his document being a No Contest end in his second bout with Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira and a physician’s stoppage loss to Tsuyoshi Kohsaka in his fifth profession begin. However after successful his Strikeforce debut in opposition to Brett Rogers, Emelianenko suffered three consecutive stoppages losses, which appeared to point that his days as a dominant power had been behind him.

After taking and successful a trio of favorable contests following the disastrous finish to his Strikeforce tenure, Emelianenko retired for three-and-a-half years and though he’s gone 4-1 in 5 fights since returning to motion, he enters Saturday’s foremost occasion showdown with Bader as a determined underdog.

But regardless of a lot of the shine coming off his star during the last a number of years, the listing of fighters to precise defeat Emelianenko is sparse and securing a second title by besting a legendary determine nonetheless holds an excessive amount of significance to Bader.

“This match in and of itself is superior, and no offense to Chael (Sonnen) or something like that, however I don’t suppose it will be as candy having two 205-pounders within the finals,” laughed Bader. “Coming in right here, beating a real top-ranked heavyweight in Matt Mitrione after which being within the finals with one of many biggest heavyweights of all-time, top-of-the-line to ever do it with Fedor is the cherry [on top]. Successful this match and successful the heavyweight championship in a Grand Prix type match by beating top-of-the-line that ever lived for the heavyweight championship [would be awesome].”

And if he is ready to keep his successful methods and full his march by way of the Heavyweight Grand Prix, the previous Arizona State wrestler will add one other accomplishment to a resume that continues to look increasingly more spectacular with every profitable journey he makes into the cage.

Previous to successful his first 4 begins underneath the Bellator MMA banner, Bader posted consecutive stoppage victories over Ilir Latifi and Antonio Rogerio Nogueira earlier than departing the UFC, sending him into Saturday’s bout with Emelianenko on a six-fight successful streak. He’s 11-1 in his final dozen fights and 26-5 for his profession, with two wins over each Davis and Nogueira, in addition to victories over Jackson, Ovince Saint Preux, Rashad Evans and Mitrione.

He’s at all times been a man who performs to his strengths and fights inside himself and after almost a dozen years as knowledgeable, Bader has crafted an excellent resume and stands as one of many extra underappreciated fighters within the sport at the moment.

“I really feel like I’m the most effective fighter I’ve ever been,” stated Bader, who credit his present run of success with a shift in mindset following his January 2016 loss to Anthony “Rumble” Johnson. “From that second on, I used to be like, ‘I’m simply going to go on the market and have enjoyable with it,’ embrace the week, the feelings and all of it.’ I understand how good I’m and the way good I could be and I really feel like proper after that, I began coming into my very own as the most effective fighter I’ve ever been.”

He added: “I believe I’m underappreciated a bit bit, however on the finish of the day, it doesn’t matter as a result of myself, my household, my coaches, my mates, the folks round me understand how good I’m. I’m not on the market on the lookout for the popularity selfishly as a result of I do know what I can do.”

Moreover, he is aware of that including a second title and a fifth straight win since signing with Bellator MMA would make denying his place as one of many prime pound-for-pound fighters within the sport at the moment a tough process.

“Popping out right here, being a two-division champion, beating Fedor, going by way of the Heavyweight Grand Prix, it might’t be ignored,” stated Bader. “I’ll be top-of-the-line pound-for-pound fighters on the earth.”

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And he has no intentions of slowing down both.

“I’m 35 proper now, however I’m the most effective bodily and mentally I’ve ever been, like I stated. I’m having enjoyable with it and I used to be refreshed coming over to Bellator,” he stated. “I’ve nonetheless bought that ‘Honeymoon Part’ going as a result of I bought to do that match and leap round weight lessons. I’ve love the match side as a result of it jogs my memory of my wresting days.”

He continued: “Going ahead, after I win this belt, I do know there was discuss that the winner of Kongo and [Minakov] will get the subsequent title shot, however I’ll have two belts and I’ve bought to determine what I’m going to do. Excellent world, I might like to go on the market and defend each, however we’ll see what occurs. I’ve bought a giant battle in entrance of me, so I’ve bought to get that first.”

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