Bader two wins from 2nd Bellator belt
NEW YORK – Ryan Bader’s journey to break new ground with Bellator continues Friday at Bellator 207.
Bader (25-5), the organization’s light heavyweight champion, has aspirations of adding heavyweight gold to his ledger.
He can do so by winning the Bellator heavyweight grand prix, an eight-man, single-elimination tournament that began in January and continues this weekend with the semifinals.
No fighter in Bellator history has held two belts simultaneously, and where others have failed, Bader is determined to get the job done.
Welterweight champion Rory MacDonald recently failed in a bid to claim the middleweight strap from Gegard Mousasi, but Bader has confidence he can complete the achievement.
Bader wants to be the main man in two weight classes, but his ambitions don’t stop there.
“I want to get both belts, then I want to defend both,” Bader told USA TODAY. “If I end up winning this belt, it’s an accomplishment in and of itself, but de- fending both would be the real accomplishment.”
A natural 205-pound fighter, Bader is at a size disadvantage going into Bella- tor 207. He meets Matt Mitrione (13-5), who is the largest of the four remaining tournament competitors, in the Paramount-televised and DAZN-streamed headliner from Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Conn.
Bader, 35, has put on added bulk to make up for the difference but says he’s still lean, mean and “faster than ever.” He easily could have stayed in his lane and defended the 205-pound belt he already owns, but Bader decided to take the risk of moving up to pursue greatness.
From the perspective of his opponent, Mitrione, that is an admirable move. “Him coming up to heavyweight is a pretty big show of courage on his side. After I beat him on Friday, it’ll definitely be a feather in my cap,” he said.
Bader knows the road ahead isn’t easy. He plowed through his first-round opponent, Muhammed Lawal, in 15 seconds at Bellator 199 in May, but now it gets interesting.
If Bader emerges victorious, he will fight the winner of the other semifinal bout between Fedor Emelianenko and Chael Sonnen, which goes down Saturday night at Bellator 208.
Bader said he’s not looking ahead at the finals planned for January. The task at hand is worthy of all of his attention.
“He’s one of my harder matchups for sure,” Bader said. “But I feel confident.”
Ryan Bader, red gloves, defeated King Mo Lawal, blue gloves, in a first-round heavyweight grand prix tournament bout in May.