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Ryan Bader: Bellator has a legit claim to the best light heavyweight in the world coming out of this grand prix

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Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

Ryan Bader知道他想成为Bellator上杉达也t heavyweight champion again, he’s going to have to walk through a murderer’s row of talent in the upcoming grand prix.

In fact as he prepares to faceLyoto Machidain theBellator 256main event, Bader only has to take a quick look at the seven other fighters comprising the tournament to know the kind of investment the promotion has made in this division.

In addition to Bader and Machida, who are the first fighters to kick off the grand prix, Bellator boasts reigning championVadim Nemkov, former championPhil Davis, as well as a number of high-profile free-agent additions in recent months including Anthony “Rumble” Johnson,Yoel RomeroandCorey Anderson.

When the grand prix is finally finished later this year, Bader obviously hopes to stand tall as champion and he would absolutely argue that the winner of this tournament should be considered the best light heavyweight in the sport regardless of promotion.

“If you look at it from your perspective, do you not think I could go in there and beat Jan [Blachowicz] or a Phil Davis or Nemkov, look at those type of guys and you don’t think we can go out there and beat him?” Bader said when speaking to MMA Fighting.

“So yeah, we have a legit claim to the best light heavyweight in the world coming out of this grand prix.”

When looking at the talent-stacked grand prix line-up, Bader quickly noticed that there were several past foes taking part in the tournament, which may grant him a unique opportunity as he seeks to become champion again.

“I was looking at it before the [initial] press conference and I was like ‘oh sh*t I’ve lost to three of these guys’ and that’s a good thing,” Bader said when referencing past defeats to Machida, Nemkov and Johnson. “I get to avenge some losses and it starts with Machida, who I fought in 2012 and it’s one of those things to prove everybody else and myself how much I’ve grown as a fighter since that fight.”

To start his revenge tour, Bader will look to go through Machida after suffering a knockout loss to the former UFC champion nearly nine years ago.

On that night, Bader spent almost the entire first round locked in a staring contest with Machida, who wasn’t really engaging much but rather looking to counter strike on the feet.

When he finally got tired of waiting for Machida to come forward, Bader rushed ahead and the Brazilian made him pay for it.

“I didn’t know what I was doing in the stand-up department at that point,” Bader admitted. “Very rudimentary. To the point now where I have a really good understanding of everything. I’ve been in there and I’ve had those big fights. I’m not going to make those mistakes.

“I remember thinking in that fight ‘this is the most boring sh*t ever, what is going on.’ I was like I’m going to try this one punch and then I woke up.”

It was a mistake that taught Bader a valuable lesson not only about patience but attacking an opponent with the right kind of aggression rather than just blindly stepping forward in an attempt to press the action.

As a karate stylist, Machida has spent much of his career picking apart opponents from the outside and making them pay with his counters, especially when somebody steps forward without accounting for his accuracy and power.

Ahead of the rematch, Bader feels like he’s well prepared for whatever Machida is going to throw at him and he hopes to start off the grand prix with a bang while simultaneously knocking a past loss off his record.

“You’ve got to be patient with him but at the same time make him fight,” Bader said about Machida. “Bring the fight to him. I’ve just got to do it better than I did it the last time and I’ve got way more tools than I had the last time.

“I should go in there and put it on him. I want to get a stoppage. He doesn’t get stopped much and put a stamp on the tournament, too. All right, he’s the heavyweight champ and yeah, he lost the light heavyweight belt but he’s looking good and be the guy that they’re looking over like ‘I’m going to fight him in the finals.’ So yeah, I’m excited about it. I’m excited to have a full camp at 205 where my body is primed and running at that weight.”

Bader hopes his performance at Bellator 256 will start off a run that matched his previous experience when the promotion ran a heavyweight grand prix in 2018 and 2019.

That tournament allowed Bader to claim his second Bellator title with a stunning knockout against arguably the greatest heavyweight of all time inFedor Emelianenko, who had been one of his favorite fighters ever since he started competing.

Now Bader hopes the BellatorLight HeavyweightGrand Prix will give him another opportunity to become champion while adding a few more legends to his resume.

“我要去击败其他所有这些斯图ds and potentially fight [Nemkov] for the belt, if he makes it all the way through,” Bader said. “To come back and reclaim the belt not by getting an immediate rematch but by going through that entire grand prix and reclaiming the belt, that’s as legit as you can do it.”