Bellator MMA has had success with fighters who were faltering at the highest level of the UFC. Rory MacDonald entered Bellator on a two-fight losing streak. Phil Davis was 1-2. Chael Sonnen was 1-3. Tito Ortiz was 1-7-1.
By contrast, Ryan Bader is 7-1 his last eight fights. UFC fighters ordinarily sign a contract before the final fight, but Bader gambled and is trying free agency. If he had lost in the main event of UFC Fight Night 100 to Antonio Rogerio Nogueira, his worth would be down. But Bader dominated.
“Nogueira is always tough,” said Bader at the post-fight press conference, as transcribed by Guilherme Cruz for MMA Fighting. “I was surprised how tough he was again. The first round, I hit him with some hard shots. One thing I learned in my career is to be patient. Last time in Brazil I wasn’t patient, and I paid for it, so I picked my shots. I started to feel better in the third than I did in the first. I wasn’t rushing anything.”
“For me, it would be awesome to get that highlight reel knockout, but you’re fighting a tough guy who’s been around forever, that’s scrappy and knows what he’s going. So for me I was kind of, I’m just going to take what I can get in that fight, and I secured that first takedown. I felt [I got it] pretty easily, so I went back to it. You never know what’s gonna happen. I took what he gave me knowing I’d pick my shots and eventually finish that fight, so it just happened to be in the third.”
“I got the Lil’ Nog fight and now here we are. Look, I love the UFC and I love fighting in the UFC. Gotta make sense, though. I’ve been a top 5 for a while, and I want big fights. There’s a big fight coming up in December, so we’ll talk with them and see where we go from here.”
The “big fight” in question is UFC undisputed light heavyweight Daniel Cormier vs. challenger Anthony Johnson at UFC 206 on December 10. So would Bader be open to flying to Canada to watch the fight Octagonside?
“Perhaps,” said Bader, smiling. “It would be fun.”
If the UFC cannot make it worth his while, Bellator light heavyweight Phil Davis would probably love a rematch. His last loss was a split decision to Bader at UFC on Fox 14 in January of 2015.