«I had a great night.»
Well, that didn’t take long.
Saturday night, Ryan Bader entered the final of the Bellator MMA Heavyweight World Grand Prix tournament (Bellator 214) facing the prospect of going toe-to-toe with a stone cold MMA legend in Fedor Emelianenko. With one devastating left hook, he became the first dual division champ in the promotion’s history. It only took him 35 seconds to get there.
With his 27-5 record, Bader was already the reigning 205-lb champion. In taking down Emelianenko, whom some say is one of the greatest heavyweight mixed martial artists ever, he seemed to surprise himself as much as anyone.
Bader’s sportsmanship was in evidence in comments made after his victory. «I had a great night,» he said, «but [Emelianenko] has had a storied career and is one of the best to ever do it. It’s an honor for me to be in the cage with him and win the heavyweight title competing against that man. I have a ton of respect for him.»
The 35-year-old Bader’s victory filled a Bellator heavyweight throne that had been gathering dust since previous champ Vitaly Minakov lost his belt in 2016 due to basically doing nothing to keep it after he won it in 2014.
Bader has been the Bellator light heavyweight titleholder since 2017. Within the promotion his overall record is 12-1. Now that he’s shouldering two belts, he’s got a lot to think about.
«My team and I have to get with Bellator and figure out where we want to be but I want to defend» both belts, Bader said.