UNCASVILLE, Conn. – It took Ryan Bader nearly nine years, but Friday he finally avenged his loss to Lyoto Machida.
In the Bellator 256 main event, Bader (28-6 MMA, 6-1 BMMA) out-grappled and utilized heavy ground-and-pound to earn a lopsided unanimous decision win. The fight launched the Bellator light heavyweight grand prix, the first of four quarterfinal bouts.
“It’s kind of a testament to how far I’ve grown,” Bader told MMA Junkie at a post-fight news conference. “(In the) first fight, I really couldn’t hold my own at all in the standup department. After that first round, after I kind of figured him out a little bit, I kind of turned it up. I knew my cardio was there. It feels good.”
With the win, Bader moves on to the semifinals. He he won’t have to wait long until he knows who his next opponent is and recognizes a quick turnaround could await him.
“It definitely feels a lot better that I know another fight is right on the line in this tournament,” Bader said. “That’s what I love about these tournaments. It’s not a fight, and we’ll see what happens and call you after a couple of months. I know when I’m fighting and who I’m fighting potentially.”
Bader, 37, will face the winner of next Friday’s Bellator 257 co-main event between former UFC contender Corey Anderson (14-5 MMA, 1-0 BMMA) and promotional newcomer Dovletdzhan Yagshimuradov (18-5-1 MMA, 0-0 BMMA). Bader explained he’s more familiar with one potential opponent than the other.
“I don’t know much about (Yagshimuradov),” Bader said. “I know Corey really well. I’ve trained with him before a couple of times. I brought him in when I fought Phil Davis. (He’s) a good guy, but it was a long time ago, 2015 (or) 2017. We’ve both grown since then. He’s been on a tear, and he’s been looking awesome.”
Regardless of his next opponent, Bader will have the same goal. He wants to prove once again that he’s the best light heavyweight in Bellator after losing the title to Vadim Nemkov last year – and he’s two wins away from doing just that.
“I want to prove that wasn’t me, my last fight (against Nemkov),” Bader said. “I was super flat. I have a bunch of excuses, but it is what it is. I got head-kicked, you know? I want to prove that I’m not that guy that showed up that night. There’s that for sure.”