Ryan Bader was still taking in his win over Valentin Moldavsky at Bellator 273 this past Saturday when his manager pulled him aside and revealed his next defense was already set. ‘Darth’ had a feeling it was going to be against Fedor Emelianenko, who has been asking for a rematch with the champion for the final fight of his legendary career.
However, much to his surprise, the name given to Bader was not Emelianenko. It was actually Cheick Kongo, the No. 2 ranked heavyweight who previously challenged him for the heavyweight championship at Bellator 226 over two years ago. That fight ended in a No Contest after an accidental eye poke from Bader left Kongo unable to continue.
A rematch with the Frenchman was always an option, but it was not the one Bader expected would happen so soon. During his post-fight press conference, he told assembled media that while he was a bit stunned by its confirmation, he was still ready to meet Kongo again.
“That’s a left turn right there,” said Bader (video provided by MMA Fighting). “I thought for sure it was going to be Fedor in Russia and all that kind of stuff. I mean, unfinished business, right? I always wanted to get that fight back. He was talking so much s—t after I poked him in the eye. I’m like, ‘Dude, there’s video of you wincing and it’s in your nose.’ And then again, he came out last fight with, ‘I’ll beat your ass in Paris,’ and all this bulls—t. Whatever. So, yeah. I like that fight. I’ve been asking for that fight forever. I wanted to run that back before I was going down to light heavyweight. So now we get to do it.
“I’m comfortable at this weight,” continued Bader. “I’m no longer going back-and-forth, so I’m going to be even better coming in at heavyweight. I just fought at light heavyweight in October and then put on that weight to fight in January. Now, I’m a heavyweight. I can just actually get into my body.”
Bader vs. Kongo II has been confirmed as the headliner for an upcoming Bellator event set to take place on May 6 in Paris, France at the Accor Arena. When asked about competing in enemy territory, the Power MMA product welcomed the challenge and relished in being able to fight again so soon.
“It’s actually nice,” said Bader. “It’s not like I’m getting any younger, right? I’m 38 years old. I had a fight in October, obviously here tonight in January, running again in May. Let’s just rack them up. I’m excited about that fight. Like I was saying earlier, that’s a fight I always wanted to run back just because of the No Contest and the s—t talking. I’m excited to travel a little bit. I’ve been doing that my whole career, out in different countries. I haven’t been to Paris.”