Bellator heavyweight champion Ryan Bader is part of the light-heavyweight grand prix tournament for the belt he lost in 2020, and he rebounded nicely at Bellator 256.
Specifically, the former Bellator light heavyweight champion lost his belt to Vadim Nemkov by TKO last Aug. However, since he still holds his heavyweight belt, the champion will be competing to regain the title he lost, and he shut down Lyoto Machida’s title dreams at Bellator 256 to begin the path back to becoming a double champion.
As one of the first bouts of the light heavyweight grand prix tournament, Bader eliminated Machida in a near shut-out performance. While the unorthodox striker saw a few moments early in the fight, as time progressed, it was clear the wrestling pressure of Bader kept him in control of the majority of the fight. Additionally, the heavyweight champion spoke as to the necessary growth he’s made since losing to Machida nine years ago.
“It’s kind of a testament to how far I’ve grown,” Ryan Bader told reporters 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.”
The NCAA Division I All-American champion was confident in the evolution of his striking game. After winning the Bellator Heavyweight Grand Prix with barely taking a punch it was obvious the notable wrestler had made huge adaptations in his overall fighting repertoire.
It seems after his big win at Bellator 256, Ryan Bader is happy with his current position and is eager to see who and when he will fight next. Overall, having already competed in a grand prix and winning, the champion has essential experience in these types of fighting situations with tournament structures.
“It definitely feels a lot better that I know another fight is right on the line in this tournament,” Ryan 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.”
While there are talks that a possible interim belt could be in the discussion to fill in for Bader’s absence, the promotion has yet to make an official announcement and Bader said he will not vacate the title. However, now that the champion remains in the tournament, all signs point toward an interim title fight as Bader will be removed from the division for some time now.
How far do you believe Ryan Bader will make it in the light-heavyweight grand prix tournament? Will he avenge his loss to Nemkov? Let us know what you below!