Ryan Bader appeared recently on Ariel Helwani’s The MMA Hour, and discussed some of the unique provisions in his new contract with Bellator MMA.
‘Darth’ will get paid a flat sum to fight, rather than the show-win that is standard in UFC contracts. And his six-fight deal calls for three fights per year; if the promotion does not book three fights, he gets paid his purse anyway.
Bader was also drawn to Bellator’s open apparel sponsorship policy. In the UFC fighters have to wear Reebok during fight week and in the Octagon, in return for tiered payouts that range from $2,500 for fighters with five or fewer fights to $40,000 for champions. In Bellator, fighters can seek their own sponsors. Bader was making $15,000 per event when he left the UFC.
“The lowest I’ve ever made — and this was on the prelims — was 35 grand on a fight,” said Bader, referencing life in the UFC before Reebok. “I’ve made upwards of 80 grand on a fight on sponsors
The shorts Bader wears for his Bellator MMA debut will be telling. Benson Henderson made identical comments when he left the UFC, but his shorts for his Bellator debut featured two logos – the gym he trains at (MMA Lab) and the noble Folds of Honor which provides educational scholarships to the children and spouses of fallen and disabled US service members. If Bader comes out in shorts without a lucrative sponsor, it will be a definitive sign that the sponsorship market is now radically changed.
However, Bader hopes to be like Henderson in one critical regard – he wants to start with a title shot too.
“It makes sense for me to go in there and fight for it,” said Bader. “I don’t think too many people can bitch about me coming over and getting an immediate title shot.”
Given that Bader beat Bellator light heavyweight champion Phil Davis in 2015 when both were in the UFC, the immediate title fight only makes sense. Still, Bader began fighting ten years ago, and barely over a year later was on the Ultimate Fighter. Bellator is a big change.
“Leaving, it’s kind of bittersweet,” said Bader. “It’s refreshing, it’s something new heading over to Bellator. But I spent my whole career in the UFC. Looking back, it’s sad, but at the same time it’s refreshing. I’m excited for something new.”