Bellator 273 is going down Saturday January 29th from the Footprint Center in Phoenix, Arizona with the promotion’s heavyweight champion, Ryan Bader (28-7-1), defending his belt against interim champ, Valentin Moldavsky (11-1), in the night’s marquee matchup. The main card begins at 10:00 PM ET/7 PM PT on Showtime, with the prelims streaming on the Bellator MMA YouTube channel, the Showtime Sports YouTube channel, and Pluto TV at 7 PM ET/4 PM PT.
Ahead of this heavyweight title unification bout, Bader sat down with Bloody Elbow to discuss why he’s done fighting in two divisions, why striking at 205-pounds is more dangerous than banging at heavyweight, his rivalry with Team Fedor, recovery tactics, and an openness to compete in boxing later down the line.
- I’m prepping IBJJF Pans in April, so I’ve been looking up videos online to help with my takedown defense. Master Bader’s Tip, where’s it at and why haven’t I seen it lately?
“If you go watch my one, it looks we’re a little risqué, but it’s actually a great, great technique. Yeah but I need to bring those back. I need to bring those back for sure, but I mean how do you one-up that one, you know?”
- So, “Darth” Bader I think is genius. It’s an excellent nickname, but how many people do you have asking you to change it to “Master?”
“Oh a ton, and I’m for it, too. I think we tried it a few times. They love it, but at the end of the day when it really comes down to pull the trigger on it, saying that on national television would be something, they just don’t want to cross that line. I embrace it, and I want to at least once in my career come out and have them, you know, announce me as Ryan “Master” Bader. It’d be fun. It’d be fun for the crowd. I’m all for it.”
- On a serious note, you’re set to defend your heavyweight belt against Valentin Moldavsky at Bellator 273 on January 29th.
“Yeah, I’m excited to come back up to heavyweight. It’s been a little while. I’ve been down at light heavyweight, and the cuts are getting brutal. I’m going to be honest. I walk around at like 235 [pounds], and so for me to go through a training camp, not have to worry about cutting weight, I can feel my body properly. I feel good. Fight week, obviously I don’t have to worry about cutting 25-pounds of water, so it’s a lot more fun fighting at heavyweight, for sure. The whole process is more enjoyable. I come in there with a better attitude I would say, and my body properly fueled and hydrated. So, I love fighting at heavyweight. No doubt about it.”
- The older we get, the harder it becomes to just physically cut the weight, but would you say competing up at heavyweight made the cuts even tougher going back down to light heavyweight?
“I was kind of dabbling in heavyweight when I went into that Grand Prix. I fought a light heavyweight the first round, but then I fought Matt Mitrione who is a big heavyweight. I wanted to be able to control him and be just as strong and everything, you know you have to put on weight.”
“The thing is, too, what people don’t realize, you have to get used to training at the weight that you’re going to fight at. I think a big mistake is people are like alright I’m going up to heavyweight, put on 20-pounds of muscle, and they go out there and fight and they’re gassing out. Their body’s not used to having that extra weight, that extra muscle burning up oxygen. It was tough bouncing back and forth... I was Yo-Yo’ing on my weight and it got to be kind of a big hassle. So, it’s kind of nice to forget about that for now, put the 205-pound division [in the] rear-view mirror, focus on heavyweight. It’s where I want to be; it’s where my body feels good. I haven’t fought at heavyweight in a couple of years, so I’m excited for this one.”
- Have we seen the end of Ryan Bader at light heavyweight?
“I’m all about opportunities. I came over to Bellator for the opportunities, so if something pops up and says hey there’s a huge fight here, or it makes sense, then perhaps. But as of right now, I’m kind of just focused on this division. Honestly, I feel better, I think i fight better at heavyweight, so why? Why would I want to go down and deplete my body and do that again. Why wouldn’t I just stay at heavyweight? I feel like the attributes I bring to the heavyweight division, I do very well, and just thinking about sticking here.”
- I’m 36, so I know as I’m aging I just do not recover like I did in my 20’s. For you, someone who trains at the highest level, what are some tools you utilize to make sure you’re as least injured as possible going into fights?
“First off it’s nutrition, right. I make my own juice, all that kind of stuff. I have my own ice bath I hit all the time. Supplement-wise I have Kill Cliff right here. I love their CBD drinks. I drink a couple of those a day. It’s all clean. They have an energy and a CBD one.”
- So, the Kill Cliff actually has the CBD in the drink?
“Yep. It’s grape, CBD, 25 milligrams. Tatses good. It’s awesome. I mean I try to stay hydrated. I drink water all day. I get sick of water, you know.”
- Valentin Moldavsky trains under the great Fedor Emelianenko, who you knocked out in 35-seconds. He also trains alongside Vadim Nemkov, who you dropped your light heavyweight belt to. This is shaping into a bit of a rivalry here with this camp don’t you think?
“Yeah, I mean the Russians are after me. You know, you beat their legend and they come after. After I beat Fedor, I think all of Russia was in my DM telling me they were going to come after me, this and that. It’s just one of those things that they have a great team, and they’re all around the same weight. I think they gravitate towards Fedor, and he’s done the right things in his career. I wasn’t surprised to see most of them make it up to where they are today - champions, title contenders, all that kind of stuff. Those guys have been on my radar. I kind of watched them when they were kind of coming up, knowing that they’re very good and I’m going to be fighting these guys sooner or later.”
- You’ve been in there with some heavy hitting 205’ers, and now you’ve had a couple of heavyweight bouts under your belt. Would you say it’s more intimidating to strike at heavyweight?
“I would actually think the opposite. There’s not much difference between a 205’er and a heavyweight, especially at the top level, which I’ve been fighting top level guys forever. 205’ers are faster and I think that adds a little more danger. Yes, a heavyweight has more weight and potentially hits harder, but I feel like I can see it better. I was in there with strikers like Matt Mitrione, who is a very fast heavyweight, and I felt like I was able to see everything with Fedor. Same deal with Cheick Kongo. For me, I feel like the 205’ers actually with their speed, and most of them have power, are more dangerous.
- We’ve got some phenomenal wrestlers like Tyron Woodley and Ben Askren that went over into MMA and became world champions. Then, they crossed over into boxing to do some more prizefighting. You have the wrestling credentials, you have the MMA world titles (in two divisions), do you think there will ever be a day we see Ryan Bader lace up the gloves and compete in the sweet science?
“Man, I’ve always wanted to box. A lot of my guys coming up, like the training partners that been in the UFC and stuff like that, they did a lot of the BadBoy Boxing, but I never got to try that — and I’ve always wanted to. A lot of people shit on these guys like Woodley and Askren for taking these fights, these boxing fights, but it’s smart for them. They got pulled back in and made a good amount of money with something they love to do.”
“I’m grateful that it’s growing. Mixed martial arts, boxing, entertainment in itself for guys like us and our skillset that we can branch out do different things and have the ability to make a good amount of money. So, yeah it’s one of those things I definitely would like to try sometime and focus on that. It would be a little later, but if something came up and they were like hey it makes sense financially, this and that, I’m all for it.”
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