So far as Ryan Bader is worried, the one means his transition to competing below the Bellator MMA banner may have gone any higher is that if he would have made extra of a press release in his debut victory over Phil Davis.

“Possibly [if I had] put an even bigger stamp on coming over and beating Phil Davis extra convincingly, however apart from that, [no],” mentioned the reigning gentle heavyweight champion when requested about his first 18 months with the corporate, which produced a 4-Zero file and a spot within the last of the World Heavyweight Grand Prix this weekend at Bellator 214.

“I came visiting, gained the belt in Madison Sq. Backyard, defended the belt in opposition to a tricky opponent (Linton Vassell), completed him, [scored a] 15-second knockout (in opposition to Muhammed Lawal) after which dominated among the best heavyweights in Bellator who would in all probability be preventing for the heavyweight title if this event wasn’t happening (Matt Mitrione), so it’s going nice proper now.

“I’ve one left within the event in opposition to one of many biggest of all time,” added Bader, who squares off with Fedor Emelianenko within the event finale on Saturday night time at The Discussion board in Inglewood, Calif., with the heavyweight title hanging within the stability.

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When the event bracket was unveiled, this was the matchup many individuals forecast, and Emelianenko is the one Bader hoped he would face within the last.

Though he was certainly one of 4 pure gentle heavyweights entered into the eight-man competitors, the 35-year-old veteran was immediately pegged as the favourite to run the desk and win the entire thing. Now that he’s solely a few days away from the battle he had hoped for and a possibility to make historical past as the primary two-weight world champion in Bellator MMA historical past, the battle-tested Bader is doing his greatest to maintain his pleasure and his nerves in examine.

“I’ve acquired to examine myself generally as a result of I begin getting a bit of hyped,” he mentioned in regard to sharing the cage with the enduring Russian. “I’ve nerves earlier than each battle — it doesn’t matter who I’m preventing — and each battle is your greatest battle, so I’ve at all times acquired to examine myself. However I’ve been in there with all people. I bear in mind standing throughout from Rampage Jackson after I was youthful — I watched him after I was arising — after which I used to be preventing him in Japan. Standing throughout from these large names is nothing new and I respect the hell out of him, however I’ve one thing to do this night time.”

He added: “For me, I take a look at it as he’s one of many biggest of all time and he represents himself and the game very effectively, however he can’t carry his previous wins in there.”

The 42-year-old Emelianenko is arguably the best heavyweight of all time and one of the vital universally revered fighters in MMA historical past.

In the course of the first 33 appearances, the person referred to as “The Final Emperor” earned 31 victories, with the lone blemishes on his file being a no-contest in his second bout with Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira and a physician’s stoppage loss to Tsuyoshi Kohsaka in his fifth profession begin. However after successful his Strikeforce debut in opposition to Brett Rogers, Emelianenko suffered three consecutive stoppage losses, which appeared to point his days as a dominant power have been behind him.

After taking and successful a trio of favorable contests following the disastrous finish to his Strikeforce tenure, Emelianenko retired for three 1/2 years and though he has gone 4-1 in 5 fights since returning to motion, he enters Saturday’s primary occasion showdown with Bader as a determined underdog.

But regardless of a lot of the shine coming off his star over the past a number of years, the record of fighters to precise defeat Emelianenko is sparse and securing a second title by besting a legendary determine nonetheless holds an excessive amount of significance to Bader.

“This event in and of itself is superior, and no offense to Chael (Sonnen) or something like that, however I don’t assume it could be as candy having two 205-pounders within the finals,” Bader mentioned, laughing. “Coming in right here, beating a real top-ranked heavyweight in Matt Mitrione after which being within the finals with one of many biggest heavyweights of all-time, among the best to ever do it with Fedor is the cherry [on top]. Successful this event and successful the heavyweight championship in a Grand Prix model event by beating among the best that ever lived for the heavyweight championship [would be awesome].”

And if he is ready to preserve his successful methods and full his march by means of the Heavyweight Grand Prix, the previous Arizona State wrestler will add one other accomplishment to a resume that continues to look increasingly more spectacular with every profitable journey he makes into the cage.

Previous to successful his first 4 begins below the Bellator MMA banner, Bader posted consecutive stoppage victories over Ilir Latifi and Antonio Rogerio Nogueira earlier than departing the UFC, sending him into Saturday’s bout with Emelianenko on a six-fight successful streak. He’s 11-1 in his final dozen fights and 26-5 for his profession, with two wins over each Davis and Nogueira, in addition to victories over Jackson, Ovince Saint Preux, Rashad Evans and Mitrione.

He’s at all times been a man who performs to his strengths and fights inside himself and after almost a dozen years as an expert, Bader has crafted an excellent resume and stands as one of many extra underappreciated fighters within the sport immediately.

“I really feel like I’m the very best fighter I’ve ever been,” mentioned Bader, who credit his present run of success with a shift in mindset following his January 2016 loss to Anthony “Rumble” Johnson. “From that second on, I used to be like, ‘I’m simply going to go on the market and have enjoyable with it,’ embrace the week, the feelings and all of it.’ I understand how good I’m and the way good I may be and I really feel like proper after that, I began coming into my very own as the very best fighter I’ve ever been.”

He added: “I believe I’m underappreciated a bit of bit, however on the finish of the day, it doesn’t matter as a result of myself, my household, my coaches, my associates, the individuals round me know the way good I’m. I’m not on the market searching for the popularity selfishly as a result of I do know what I can do.”

Moreover, he is aware of that including a second title and a fifth straight win since signing with Bellator MMA would make denying his place as one of many prime pound-for-pound fighters within the sport immediately a troublesome process.

“Popping out right here, being a two-division champion, beating Fedor, going by means of the Heavyweight Grand Prix, it may possibly’t be ignored,” mentioned Bader. “I’ll be among the best pound-for-pound fighters on the earth.”

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And he has no intentions of slowing down both.

“I’m 35 proper now, however I’m the very best bodily and mentally I’ve ever been, like I mentioned. I’m having enjoyable with it and I used to be refreshed coming over to Bellator,” he mentioned. “I’ve nonetheless acquired that ‘Honeymoon Part’ going as a result of I acquired to do that event and soar round weight courses. I’ve beloved the event facet as a result of it jogs my memory of my wrestling days.”

“Going ahead, after I win this belt, I do know there was speak that the winner of Kongo and [Minakov] will get the following title shot, however I’ll have two belts and I’ve acquired to determine what I’m going to do,” he continued. “Excellent world, I’d like to go on the market and defend each, however we’ll see what occurs. I’ve acquired an enormous battle in entrance of me, so I’ve acquired to get that first.”

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