June 27, 2017

Ryan Bader: Bellator 180 Set The Stage For Second Phase of Career

Image: Bellator MMA/Lucas Noonan
By Raphael Garcia

At Bellator 180, Ryan Bader did more than pick up his second win against Phil Davis and take home the organization’s 205-pound title; he also found his “home” in mixed martial arts. Twenty-eight fights into his decade-long professional career, Bader had his first title belt placed around his waist. A perennial contender within the UFC, Bader’s move to Bellator has kicked off what may be the best and most lucrative portion of his fighting journey.

At Bellator 180 Bader and Davis fought to another close, split-decision battle. Much like their bout back in 2015, this wasn’t the most exciting fight available, but it was an important contest for the division. In some ways, this was the most relevant fight on the card in relation to rankings and divisional titles. On the basis that this was Bader’s first title shot and win, it stands to set Bader up for even bigger opportunities, one of the main reasons he made the jump to the Bellator brand.

Image: Bellator MMA/Lucas Noonan
“For me, it wasn’t just about straight money,” Bader said as reported by Brett Okamoto of ESPN after his Bellator signing was announced. “It was about, ‘What’s the plan for me?’ When I met with Bellator President Scott Coker, he laid out a plan of where they are going and he laid out a plan for me. That was cool to see.”

Watching that plan unfold will be a compelling story for Bader and its fans alike. Bellator doesn’t have the depth across weight divisions the UFC has, but that doesn’t mean the organization can’t put together intriguing fights. Bader is already calling for a rematch against Tito Ortiz, which fits right into the promotion’s “entertainment first” style. If the organization doesn’t want to jump directly to that fight, there are names like Muhammed Lawal, Liam McGeary, and Linton Vassell to help set the stage in the future. Without a champion at heavyweight, that Bellator division is wide open for the taking, and one shouldn’t sleep on the idea of Bader making the move up to increase his overall value to the promotion. Regardless of the immediate step that comes next, Bellator has given Bader what he seemingly lacked in the UFC: options.

Even before stepping into the cage on Saturday night, Bader was experiencing benefits from the move . His new contract allows him to receive a full purse, no longer splitting between show and win money. With five remaining fights and the ability to attract sponsors again, Bader’s set himself up for a lucrative run in the promotion. In the world of prizefighting, that’s an important -- if not the most important -- goal for those stepping into competition.

At 34 years of age, Ryan Bader is finally in the best position of his career. He’s a champion and in a promotion that’s willing to build around him. Now, it’s up to Bader to deliver on his end of the deal, and from the start of things, he’s equipped to do just that.

Bellator (180) NYC: Sonnen vs. Silva took place June 24, 2017 at Madison Square Garden in New York, New York.

Click the stars to rate how good you think Bellator 180 was.

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