Ryan Bader may have walked out of Bellator 244 without the light heavyweight title around his waist, but at least he can still console himself with some heavyweight gold. The former longtime UFC athlete took his talents to the Viacom-owned promotion back in 2017, grabbing the strap at 205-lbs in his first fight at his new home, before charging through Bellator’s heavyweight Grand Prix—KOing MMA legend Fedor Emelianenko in just 35 seconds to capture his second piece of hardware.
On August 21st, Vadim Nemkov made his own splash after a somewhat slower climb through the Bellator ranks, picking up a TKO over Bader behind a head kick and series of unanswered punches midway through the second round of the Bellator 244 main event. After the bout, promotion president Scott Coker spoke to reporters about what he thinks will come next for ‘Darth’ Bader. To his mind, it probably won’t be an immediate rematch with Nemkov. But it sounds like he’s leaving the ultimate decision up to the Power MMA talent.
“I think he’ll probably want to go back to heavyweight and fight some heavyweight fights,” Coker told reporters (transcript via MMA Junkie). “But I do think this: As a fighter, he’s gonna want to come back and avenge his defeat at some point. And so whether we do it at heavyweight or he wants to come back right away, we’ll have him decide, but my guess, and again it’s just speculation, is that he’ll want to move up to heavyweight for a couple of fights, and then he’s gonna want to fight Nemkov again.”
Bader took to Instagram after the loss to deliver a message to fans and to congratulate Nemkov on the victory. He also offered his own reminder that while his light heavyweight belt may be lost, he’s still got another title to defend.
“Lost one belt but still have another one on my shoulder,” Bader wrote on the social media platform, “and looking to come back better than ever.”
Coker added that Bellator plans to announce a couple major heavyweight bouts for October in the coming weeks, from which it sounds like he expects at least one title challenger for Bader’s belt to arise. Bader is currently under 90-day medical suspension following his knockout loss to Nemkov. So that could line him up for a return to action around the end of the year, or in early 2021.