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‘Fedor vs Bader’ full conference call audio replay, select Bellator 214 quotes

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Bellator 214 media call

Bellator 214: “Fedor vs. Bader” takes place at The Forum in Inglewood, Calif., on Jan. 26, 2019, featuring the final match of the Heavyweight Grand Prix between Fedor Emelianenko (38-5, 1 NC) against Light Heavyweight champion Ryan Bader (26-5) in the Paramount Network-televised main event. Only one man will walk away as not only the tournament winner, but the holder of Bellator MMA’s Heavyweight title.

To promote the upcoming event, Emelianenko, Bader, Jake Hager (formerly known as Jack Swagger) and his opponent, J.W. Kiser, as well as company President Scott Coker, all huddled on the phone for a pre-fight press conference. Check out a full audio replay of the Bellator 214 call in the video player above, as well as select comments from the participants below.

Hager on why now is the time to enter into the world of mixed martial arts (MMA) ...

“I think right now if you look at MMA it’s at a peak of popularity, and with my background at professional wrestling, it is also at its height of popularity ever higher than the 1980’s. I think for me as an athlete, as a sports brand, it makes sense to try to cross over into another industry because it’s only going to make me a better pro wrestler, and being a pro wrestler is only going to make me a better MMA fighter.”

Kiser on the opportunity to face a pro wrestling superstar at Bellator 214 ...

“I want to say thanks to Steve Coker of Bellator MMA, and obviously thanks to Jake Hager too for taking the fight. It’s a huge opportunity for me. I think it’s an awesome thing. Man the more popularity we can bring to MMA the better. The bigger names we can get involved in the sport just keeps it growing. I love Jake, I’m a fan of Mr. Hager, I can’t wait to get in the Octagon with him and bang it out. I’ve watched him wrestle. It’s an honor to be a part of such a big event and even to be a part of his debut as a MMA fighter.”

(Editor’s note — yes he did say STEVE COKER and then say his fight was in the OCTAGON.)

Bader on finally getting to face off with Emelianenko in the finals ...

“Yeah I mean it’s an awesome experience, this whole grand prix, having the Light Heavyweight belt and getting asked to enter this grand prix. Winning these two fights, let alone fighting for the Heavyweight championship, and potentially winning two belts — you know I get to finish it off with fighting one of the greatest of all times in Fedor. This tournament’s been great. I’ve never really had a time in my career where I’ve known my opponents before the fight right in front of you. I knew I was fighting Matt Mitrione, and then I knew I was fighting the winner of Chael and Fedor. Its been easy goals to see in front of me as far as putting the work in to train. I’ve been motivated throughout this whole process. Best shape of my life, feeling great, perfect time for the Heavyweight championship fight.”

How Emelianenko plans to counter Bader’s ability to stifle tough opponents ...

“Ryan Bader is an exceptional fighter, probably one of the toughest and sturdiest guys in this tournament. He has a very strong wrestling background, it’s not easy to hit Ryan, he’s got very good defense and he’s very making sure he doesn’t get hit. The rest we’ll have to see in the fight.”

Hager on balancing MMA and his pro wrestling career ...

“It’s been a work in progress. When I left WWE in April of 2017 I knew I had a lot of meat on the table to capitalize on in the independent wrestling world so that was the main focus. Slowly as we got closer to being ready to step in the cage the focus shifted to the MMA aspect. It’s been a really cool journey. I would have been ready sooner if I wasn’t wrestling on the weekends but unfortunately I had to make my money the way I can. I think it will help me with my MMA career so it’s almost like practice a little bit too.”

Hager on whether or not he’d be interested in All Elite Wrestling ...

“Bellator has been absolutely amazing to work with because of the way they treat their talent and put on their promotion so I’m already with a great organization. As far as AEW I think it’s great for the landscape and giving the big dog competition. It’s only going to make things better for professional wrestlers when promotions like AEW emerge and are successful.”

Hager on the haters who won’t like him being on Bellator 214 ...

“A lot of people are not going to like that I get to be on this card, or what I get paid to be on the card, but that’s not my problem. I belong here — enough said.”

Emelianenko on how this grand prix compares to others he’s been in ...

“This grand prix is right up there with the other ones he’s fought in. It has a lot of great fighters, a lot of top ten fighters, the likes of Ryan Bader, Matt Mitrione, Frank Mir and so on. I was excited to be a part of it.”

Emelianenko on what it would mean to become Bellator’s Heavyweight champion ...

“It means a lot. It means everything. This grand prix is very important. I’m fighting for my country, I’m fighting with God on my mind, and I’m also the only Russian fighter in this grand prix. It means everything to me and I’m going to give it 100%.”

Emelianenko on fighting at this point in his career and why he chooses to fight in Bellator ...

“First of all I want to thank Scott for including him in this grand prix. He’s always been a man of his word and it’s always been a pleasure to work for him. He’s not the kind of guy who makes empty promises. I fight for my country, I fight for my beliefs, what more do you need than that?”

Bader on defending two title belts if he wins on Jan. 26 ...

“I don’t like to look too far ahead but I will be holding both titles. I don’t think there’s a clear cut 205 contender out there. I don’t think one has separated himself for the rest of the pack. There doesn’t need to be an interim belt or anything right away. I have to win this fight first. In a perfect world I’d like to keep both and defend both but we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it.”

Emelianenko on whether or not he’d be willing to fight Vitaly Minakov ...

“For now I’m just focused on trying to win this grand prix and we’ll deal with the rest later. I have a tough opponent in front of me.”

Hager on what will surprise fans the most when he has his first professional fight ...

“Wrestlers have great takedowns and their conditioning is usually above par. What will surprise people is how hard I hit and how fast I am for a Heavyweight.”

Bader on whether or not he ever imagined facing Emelianenko ...

“I started thinking about trying to get into MMA around my senior year. We started messing around with it just trying to cut weight. I had a lot of friends who went into it — Cain Velasquez, C.B. Dollaway, and so on. PRIDE was a far off place in my mind and I never thought we’d cross paths at all. We agreed to this tournament without knowing who it would be and then legends and names like Fedor popped up in it. The cherry on top would be going to the finals and then facing the greatest of all time Fedor. I wanted it to be Fedor, a true Heavyweight, one of the greatest. I’m glad we’re fighting for the Heavyweight championship of the world.”

The style of fight Bader thinks it will be ...

“I’d try to game plan so much, rehearse it in my head so much, that when it didn’t go there it’d put me on a wrong path. Now I let it go and whatever happens is fine. I can adapt to everything — on the fight, on the ground, mix it all up, keep him guessing and do what I do well. You never know what’s going to happen. With King Mo it was one punch, with Matt I came wrestling and grappling heavy. We have a game plan but it’s a fight so you never know.”

What Emelianenko thinks is the best mix of fight styles for him ...

“Pretty much the same as Ryan. He’s been training in stand-up and ground and like him wherever it goes. It doesn’t matter either way.”

What it means to Emelianenko if he wins this tournament at 42 years old ...

“This will definitely be a huge accomplishment for me for my career especially because of the opponent. Ryan is a great fighter and he’s beaten some really tough guys to be here.”

Bader on whether or not beating Emelianenko would be his biggest accomplishment ...

“For sure. I try not to let that get into my head at all. Every fight in front of you is your biggest fight even if it’s a regular old fight. I kept my head down, I won these fights I had to win, I won the Light Heavyweight title, I entered a Heavyweight tournament, and I beat one of the guys who would be fighting for the title if there wasn’t a tournament in Matt Mitrione. Everything has come to fruition. This is a perfect time. This cements it and cements my legacy going out there and beating Fedor. He’s earned all that respect, one of the greatest of all time, so as far as my career this is the biggest moment.”

Hager on if he’s shooting to be a Bellator champion ...

“Absolutely, I’d love to be in the finals of a Heavyweight grand prix. Anybody who enters into MMA and is serious about it... look I left a big company making hundreds of thousands of dollars, a huge risk as far as my career goes, this is very serious for me. This is life. I love cash and I want more of it. I don’t need it all, I just need a lot.”

How Hager’s amateur and professional wrestling career have helped him ...

“You know what? I’ve been wrestling since I was five years old so I’m relying on that training and background to help me prepare for this. I haven’t had a MMA fight, but I don’t think that deters me from becoming a professional MMA fighter. The bright lights have actually helped me and will continue to help me as a fighter.”

Hager on what made him want to get into MMA so bad ...

“Back in 2013 an ex-teammate of mine was fighting in Tampa where I lived. From then on I had the bug. It wasn’t a matter of if but a matter of when I crossover over into the MMA world. I wanted to compete, I wanted to be tested and here is where it’s going to happen. Bellator has been great. They’ve accommodated my independent wrestling schedule very well and allowed me to wait until I know I’m ready, which is now.”

Bader on how motivated he is by this fight ...

“Obviously, it takes a lot of work to win two belts. It’s a perfect storm for both. I get to be Heavyweight champion and beat one of the greatest to do it. That’s motivating me. I was hoping he’d get to the finals and here we are.”

Bader on getting a rematch of Lyoto Machida when he was knocked out ...

“Yeah, hell yeah. One of those not good highlights for me when they show me rushing in and getting knocked out. I had no idea what I was doing striking wise. I’d definitely like to get that back. It’s a big fight and I’m looking to get into those kind of fights. Those fights are definitely what I want.”

Bader on if he wants Bellator to bring in more Light Heavyweight competition ...

“I don’t feel that UFC’s Light Heavyweight division is very deep at all, they keep regurgitating guys, you can’t pull many guys from there. I haven’t thought about it too much. Bellator is doing a great job of attracting guys, these high level guys, and it’s only going to take a little bit of time.”

Bader on when he sees fighters slide in their career if he hopes they come to Bellator ...

“Not exactly. I’m kind of just doing my own thing. There’s always guys to fight. One thing that’s a goal for the company is to keep growing and getting high level names. As a competitor I want to compete against the best. I have tough guys in front of me and the pinnacle right now is Fedor for the Heavyweight championship of the world. Everything after that is gravy, is just fun. I look forward to being free and fighting these big fights.”

Hager on any similarities between him and Brock Lesnar ...

“We both have big teeth and no necks. Is that a similarity? What Brock did was incredible, he raised the bar to new heights to something that a lot of people didn’t think would ever happen, have entertainers cross over into this highly physical industry. MMA training is way harder than wrestling, its proven that over the last 1.5 years. We have very similar wrestling, but I think my hands are better.”

Bader on whether or note he wants a Light Heavyweight tournament ...

“Like I said earlier there’s not a ton of clear-cut contenders right now. There are a couple of guys and I would rather have them duke it out and fight the winner.”

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