Although he has not competed at light heavyweight for about three years, Ryan Bader believes he can be considered one of the best within the division today. Thanks to recent events, the double-champion believes that is a fact now more than ever.
Bader (27-5, 1 NC) will be defending his Bellator Light Heavyweight Title this Friday, August 21 at Bellator 244. He will face off against Vadim Nemkov, a rising star in Bellator. If he were to win, his 25th within the division, would there be any doubt when it comes to his status?
Recently, Daniel Cormier retired following a loss to Stipe Miocic at Bellator 252. The former double-champion was a former light heavyweight champion and has wins over Dan Henderson, Frank Mir, Alexander Gustafsson, Anthony Johnson, and Volkan Oezdemir. Jon Jones, an eleven-time defender of the UFC Light Heavyweight Title, relinquished the belt and will now move to heavyweight.
“Arguably, right now you can say the winner of this fight is one of the best heavyweights right now that’s out there,” Bader stated to MMA Junkie. “DC retired and had a great career. He was always up there. Then, obviously, Jon Jones was one of the greatest of all time. I think that the whole division was in his shadow. Him moving up definitely opens it up.
The winner of The Ultimate Fighter 8 Light Heavyweight Tournament in 2008, Bader ended up 15-5 with the UFC. He would lose to Jones at UFC 126, which resulted in Jones fighting for and winning the UFC Light Heavyweight Title from Mauricio Rua.
While he would go on win streaks, Bader never fought for light heavyweight gold in the UFC. Bader took a two-fight win streak to Bellator, where he won the Bellator Light Heavyweight Title in his debut against Phil Davis. His last defense of the title came in 2017 at Bellator 186, beating Linton Vassell via TKO. “Darth” Bader would end up winning the Bellator Heavyweight Grand Prix, beating Muhammad Lawal, Matt Mitrione, and Fedor Emelianenko for the Bellator Heavyweight Title.
Bader faces a guy in Nemkov (11-2) who is on a six-fight win streak, and 4-0 in Bellator. He has eight wins via knockout.
If Bader was to win and stay at light heavyweight for a longer run, he believes his legacy will be set.
“With my accomplishments, it’s not like I haven’t been there,” Bader went on to say. “I was a top-five guy consistently in there. I’ve grown as a fighter since I came over here – tremendously. Yeah, you can argue the winner of this fight is the best light heavyweight right now.”
Bellator 244 will be taking place inside the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, CT.