Ryan Bader became the first two-division champion in Bellator MMA history when he stopped Fedor Emelianenko in the finals of the promotion’s heavyweight grand prix on Saturday night. Scott Coker believes that puts the 35-year-old Arizonan in some rarified air when it comes to the sport’s top pound-for-pound fighters.
He’s got to be right up there in the top two or three, in my opinion,” Coker told assembled media at the Bellator 214 post-fight press conference. “The guy is dangerous. I’m not sure if I’m just imagining but it seems like he’s becoming a better striker. Because the go-to move was always to go for the takedown, go for the shoot…but now with the ‘King Mo’ stoppage and this stoppage, I think he was setting up what he hit him with.”
Bader was rarely hit as he rolled through Muhammed Lawal, Matt Mitrione and Emelianenko to capture the California-based organization’s vacant heavyweight crown. The Power MMA Team product still sits atop the Bellator light heavyweight division, as well, and has won 12 of his last 13 fights overall — a run that dates back to his UFC tenure.
While two-division reigns rarely seem to last, Coker is going to give Bader the chance to defend both of his titles. Even then, the Bellator president admits that Bader’s time as champ-champ is unlikely to last in the long term.
“That’s gonna be up to Ryan. As long as we don’t have light heavyweight being jammed up [he can defend both titles],” Coker said. “For instance, if Gegard [Mousasi] eventually [moves up] and Lyoto [Machida] might wanna move up and fight Bader at 205. As long as those fights aren’t right down the road for him, we’re gonna give him a little bit of leeway to say ‘Hey, if you want to defend the heavyweight, you can do it.’
“He can go back and forth. I think eventually there will be a bottleneck at some point and we’ll all just make a business decision.”