Ryan Bader has been around the highest levels of MMA for quite some time, but until Bellator 214 on Saturday night, he hasn’t gotten a ton of recognition for his accomplishments.
Bader won the Bellator heavyweight grand prix in spectacular fashion by vanquishing Fedor Emelianenko in just 35 seconds, knocking out the all-time great with a single left hook to the jaw. Though he’s conquered several high-level opponents, none have the name or legacy as “The Last Emperor.”
“Fedor just has this aura about him and look what he did in this tournament,” Bader told the assembled press at the Bellator 214 post-fight press conference late Saturday night. “He went out there and finished two tough guys in the first round. He comes out here, enters this heavyweight tournament and makes it to the finals so I’m very honored to be a part of his story. Now I have him as part of my story.”
Emelianenko opened up as a massive betting favorite against Bader, but the Power MMA Team representative knew all along that he was going to prevail. In fact, the Arizonan predicted that he would end the fight with the exact punch.
“I knew that punch was going to do it,” he said. “When he throws, you can’t see his right hand because he throws from his hip. He throws very hard and in doing so, he leaves himself exposed. I figured he’d respect my wrestling and stay back. We practiced that punch a lot and we knew he’d be there.
“I did feel like we were going to get into a fire fight like he did with Chael,” he added. “And if that happened, I felt it would benefit me in the long run. I did feel that I would connect with that punch and go punch-for-punch with him and put him down. I didn’t think it would have happened that quick, though.”
The win allowed Bader) to become the promotion’s heavyweight champion. “Darth” entered the tournament as the reigning light heavyweight king, making him the only fighter thus far to simultaneously hold world titles in two weight divisions in Bellator. He’s won seven in a row and 12 of 13 overall and feels that the time is now for the world to realize what he’s done inside the cage.
“I think this kind of solidifies that I am one of the best pound-for-pound [fighters] out there. I feel like I’m in my prime right now. I haven’t even begun to scratch the surface on my legacy. I just became a two-division world champion. What else is there to do? I can’t drop down to 185.”
Bader said that he plans on keeping and defending both of his world titles, but admitted that he has no clue when he’ll fight next or against whom.