Ryan Bader is moving on in Bellator’s light heavyweight grand prix, and that means the heavyweight division could be moving forward – at least temporarily – without him.
Bader defeated Lyoto Machida via unanimous decision in the opening round of Bellator’s 205-pound grand prix on Friday night at Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Conn. That means his next appearance, tentatively slated for July according to the tournament bracket, will be again at light heavyweight against the winner of the Bellator 257 matchup between Corey Anderson and Dovletdzhan Yagshimuradov.
Regardless of how Bader fares going forward, even a loss in the next round would mean that a heavyweight title defense would be unlikely to happen until late 2021 at the earliest. For now, he is intent on reclaiming the 205-pound belt he lost to Vadim Nemkov via second-round TKO at Bellator 244 in August 2020.
With that in mind, Bellator president Scott Coker revealed that the promotion will likely move forward with an interim heavyweight championship bout in the near future. Coker confirmed those plans in typically vague fashion but did not lay out a specific timetable or a matchup.
“I think it is [time for an interim title],” Coker said during a post-fight scrum after Bellator 256 (video via MMAFighting.com). “Ryan’s obviously going to be moving forward in the tournament so we’re most likely going to put together an interim title, which we’ll probably have something announced in the next couple of weeks.
“Maybe we’ll even have something to announce by next week’s event. But I think we’re gonna be heading in that direction.”
Bader hasn’t defended the heavyweight strap since Bellator 226, when his bout against Cheick Kongo ended via no contest due to an eye poke. If an interim title is created, Kongo vs. Timothy Johnson could be the fight to make, since those are the highest-ranked Bellator heavyweights behind Bader.