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Bellator Heavyweight champion, Ryan Bader, juggles quest to regain 205-pound belt

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“Darth” talks about getting back on track in 2021 in the upcoming Light Heavyweight tournament on Showtime.

Ryan Bader
Ryan Bader
Esther Lin

Bellator MMA and Showtime held a media press conference earlier this week (Feb. 9, 2021) to announce that Showtime is the new exclusive home for live Bellator fights starting on April 2, 2021. In addition, Bellator President, Scott Coker, and the team revealed an eight-man Light Heavyweight tournament that includes current champion, Vadim Nemkov (12-2), and former roost ruler, Ryan Bader (27-6, 1 NC).

Bader still reigns on top as the Heavyweight champ, but in a media press event to talk about the next grand prix he’ll enter, the former 205-pound kingpin talked about balancing the proposition of avenging losses in one weight class as the top man in another.

“You know (Lyoto) Machida, I’ve always wanted to revenge that loss, (but) most importantly it was a long time ago. It’s a great gauge to see where I came from when I literally knew nothing striking to where I am now. When he came over to Bellator that’s one fight I always had my eye on. Nemkov, of course, he has the belt right now and (I) definitely want revenge on that. With the proper preparation for that fight and weight cut going in there I feel like it would be a different story.”

With both men being on opposite side of the bracket, though, Bader and Nemkov will each have to win out their side if a rematch is to ever take place.

“This whole tournament’s awesome. Great guys, you know, tough competition every single fight. The belt’s on the other side for now so that means I’ve got to make it to the finals and fight for the belt in the finals.”

What about the Heavyweights who are queuing up for a shot at the 265-pound belt that Bader currently holds in his possession? What does Bader feel is the right answer for them?

“Yeah, I was trying to make a Heavyweight (title) fight happen as soon as possible. Tim (Johnson) and I were talking on social media and stuff in respectful ways and saying ‘Hey let’s do it,’ but then they came with this opportunity, this huge Light Heavyweight tournament, asked if I wanted to be part of it. You never know how these tournaments will play out, but right after I’m done with this it’s a Heavyweight title defense.”

Given that could take up the rest of 2021, though, Coker hinted that an interim title is possible so as to not keep the Heavyweight division on hold forever.

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