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In an ideal world, Ryan Bader would be an active two-division champion if he defeats Fedor Emelianenko at Bellator 214.
However, the reigning light heavyweight titlist admits there isn’t yet a plan in place if he does leave The Forum in Inglewood, Calif., on Jan. 26 with two belts in tow.
“We haven’t really got into it yet,” Bader said during a media call to promote Bellator 214. “I want to defend both belts. We’ll see. I gotta win both belts first. If I do that, then we get with Bellator and get a game plan going — what’s best for us and best for them.
“It’s gotta make sense for me. I’ve got to be incentivized to stay here and fight big old boys all the time.”
Bader punched his ticket to the finals of Bellator’s heavyweight grand prix with a 15-second stoppage of Muhammed Lawal and a dominant decision against Matt Mitrione. Overall, the UFC veteran has won 11 of his last 12 fights. Bader could envision a two-division reign in part because he thinks the 205-pound weight class isn’t currently overflowing with contenders — which means there’s a little less urgency to make a quick title defense there.
“I don’t feel like there’s a clear cut 205-pound contender out there,” he said. “There’s a couple in the mix, but I don’t think really one has separated himself from the rest of the pack. I don’t believe there needs to be an interim belt or anything like that right away. Really, we’ll see. I have to win this fight to have two belts. Yeah, In a perfect world I’d want to defend both belts and keep them, but we’ll cross that bridge when it happens.”
Bader claimed the light heavyweight belt with a five-round verdict over Phil Davis at Bellator 180 before scoring a TKO win against Linton Vassell at Bellator 186. While Bellator has been active in the free-agent market, Bader doesn’t believe that the light heavyweight talent pool can be significantly bolstered with splashy signings from the UFC.
“I don’t feel the UFC’s light heavyweight division is very deep at all. I think think there’s a handful of guys. They keep kind of regurgitating guys to fight for the belt. So there’s not too many to pull from there,” he said. T”here’s always guys out there floating around. Bellator is doing a great job at attracting these high level guys. That’s gonna come with just a little bit of time. The word’s getting out. We’re treated well over here.
“We have opportunities, for example being able to fight in this grand prix. We saw Darrion Caldwell being able to fight in Japan [at Rizin] and all that kind of good stuff. That’s attractive to us. You’re gonna see more guys coming over and that will fill out the ranks.”