The #4 ranked UFC light heavyweight contender Ryan ‘Darth’ Bader is currently testing free agency, having let his UFC contract run out. The usual process is for a fighter to sign a new contract before the old one ends.
Although Bader’s contracted win and show amount have not been available for the events this year, his final fight last year was at 57/57. There was one loss and two wins after that, so at 33, with 20 fights across eight years in the UFC, Bader is probably making in the low 70s to show and the same to win. It’s good money, but given a top fighter’s expenses, it isn’t great. Like everyone, he hopes to do better. And wants a shot at a major title.
“I’ve won seven of my last eight, I have back-to-back finishes over tough competition, and I’m ranked #4 in the world in my division,” said Bader in an exclusive interview with Duane Finley for FloCombat.
“I haven’t received a title shot yet with the UFC, and I believe that’s something I’ve earned. That and a few other things made me realize fighting out my contract was the best move and that’s what I did. In any other sport this would be a regular thing, but in this sport that isn’t the case. Things are changing now and that’s great for the fighters, and I’m at the point in my career where I really need to do what is best for me and my family.”
Bader is notably the last person to defeat Bellator MMA light heavyweight champion Phil Davis.
“There are some really intriguing matchups for me over in Bellator, and I love it. … [The UFC] has a special place in my heart. But at the same time, I have to look at right now and the things I want. I got into this game to become a champion and winning the title in Bellator or the UFC would be a dream come true. I believe I deserve the opportunity.
“I’d love to step in and fight Phil Davis again for the Bellator title, or barring a fight between Anthony Johnson and Daniel Cormier, I’m right there as well. But there are a lot of really interesting matchups for me in Bellator.”
A handful of fighters in the UFC have negotiated a flat fee to fight, rather than the standard one sum to show and another to win. Bader wants in.
“There have been times in past fights in the UFC where I’ve gotten finished and I fought a certain way because I’m trying to secure half my income all the time,” he explained. “One thing that very much appeals to me is maybe being able to go out and negotiate a flat rate where I’m then able to go out there and let everything I have to offer fly. Having the chance to go out there and use everything I have and know I’m getting paid right changes everything about this game.”
Bader occupies an unusual position, in that he is not a Tito Ortiz, Ken Shamrock, Stephan Bonnar, Royce Gracie, Melvin Guillard, Fedor Emelianenko, Chael Sonnen, Josh Koscheck on the tail end of a fight career. He is a top talent.
“The best is still ahead of me,” he said. “I could fight for a title in any promotion. That’s a good feeling to have going through this process.”