Cooler heads have prevailed in the Cormier-Bader rivalry. | Dave Mandel/Sherdog.com
Ryan Bader might have stolen some of the shine from Daniel Cormier’s coronation, but the two light heavyweights aren’t holding a grudge.
After Cormier defeated Anthony Johnson at UFC 187 to capture the promotion’s vacant light heavyweight crown, Bader, who didn’t compete that night, engaged in a shouting match with the champ at the event’s post-fight press conference. The confrontation stemmed from a canceled matchup between Bader and Cormier at UFC Fight Night in New Orleans: When Jon Jones was suspended and stripped of the 205-pound title, Cormier was tabbed to face Johnson on May 23. Bader was left without a fight, and he took to Twitter to prod his would-be foe.
Tensions briefly boiled over as Bader approached Cormier at the press conference dais before eventually exiting the premises on his own.
Now, both men will share the UFC 192 card; Cormier defends the light heavyweight strap against Alexander Gustafsson, while Bader meets Rashad Evans in a pivotal 205-pound duel. No matter what happens in the Octagon, don’t expect either Bader or Cormier to revisit that previous altercation at the Toyota Center in Houston. Both men say they’ve moved on.
“I’m over that whole situation. I go out there and beat Rashad, and he gets through Gustafsson, and then hopefully we can meet for a title shot there and we can pick up where we left off,” Bader said during a conference call. “I was done with it after I got the name, got Rashad. He’s a tough opponent and I’ve got to get through him first. Everything else fell by the wayside. I’m focusing on Rashad and that’s it. I haven’t really thought about it until the media brings it up.”
Meanwhile, Bader’s approach since the incident has impressed Cormier, who barked at the Power MMA Team product to “get the f--k out of here” during their shouting match at the MGM Grand in May.
“The weirdest thing about this whole situation with Ryan Bader is through this situation and the way that he’s carried himself I’ve actually gained a level of respect, because it seems as though he’s finally understanding the game,” Cormier said. “Make yourself relevant and people will put you in title fights and fights that really matter.
“Animosity? Obviously I didn’t like that happened at the post-fight press conference when I was hoping to have my moment. You know what? That guy’s got a really tough fight ahead of him and I’ve got a tough fight myself. We’ll see what happens after this.”
Bader did acknowledge, however, the disappointment that accompanied being denied a title shot.
“When it happened, obviously when you know you’re that close to a title shot and you don’t get it, that sucks. But I’ve got the next best thing in Rashad. In that meantime when I didn’t have a fight, that’s what was eating at me,“ Bader said. “I had a fight in June, and I didn’t get that title shot. I was kind of in no man’s zone. You feel lost when you don’t have something on the horizon but when I finally heard it was Rashad, I totally forgot about all that.”
The 32-year-old Arizonan has won four straight fights, besting Phil Davis, Ovince St. Preux, Rafael Cavalcante and Anthony Perosh in succession, but all of those triumphs went the distance. Bader recognizes that he has an opportunity to make a statement against Evans, a former titlist who hasn’t competed since November 2013.
“Let’s be honest, the finishing [fights] part of it is a big part of it -- getting a title shot and being exciting,” Bader said. “I’ve got four wins in a row and I think I need that name recognition, that guy in Rashad Evans to go out there and beat him and make it five in a row. Then maybe, yeah, you deserve the shot.”