Bader two wins from 2nd Bel­la­tor belt

USA TODAY US Edition - - SPORTS - Mike Bohn

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.

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