5 Things You Should Know About Bellator’s Ryan Bader

Photo: Mike Roach/Zuffa LLC / Contributor (Getty Images)

Ryan Bader has charted a course to become the first simultaneous two-division champion in Bellator MMA history. One of the all-time greats stands as his lone remaining obstacle.

Already the reigning light heavyweight titleholder, Bader will battle Fedor Emelianenko in the final of the promotion’s heavyweight grand prix at Bellator 214 on Jan. 26 at The Forum in Inglewood, California. To the winner goes the vacant Bellator heavyweight championship. Bader needed just 15 seconds to cut down Muhammed Lawal with punches in the tournament quarterfinals, then punched his ticket to the final with a one-sided unanimous decision over Matt Mitrione.

Fighter facts: A Closer Look at UFC Competitors

As Bader makes final preparations for his confrontation with Emelianenko, here are five things you should know about him:

1. He was successful outside of mixed martial arts.

A two-time state champion wrestler at Robert McQueen High School in Reno, Nevada, Bader went on to star at Arizona State University, where he became a two-time NCAA All-American and three-time Pac-10 Conference champion. He finished fourth nationally in 2004 and seventh in 2006. Bader still ranks ninth on the school’s all-time wins list with 120.

Ryan Bader

Photo: Ed Mulholland/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC (Getty Images)

2. Reality television gave him his big break.

Bader defeated Tom Lawlor, Eliot Marshall, and Vinny Magalhaes to win Season 8 of The Ultimate Fighter and land an Ultimate Fighting Championship contract in 2008. None of the 16 fighters—eight light heavyweights and eight lightweights—who competed on the show remain on the active UFC roster.

3. He hit the ground running in MMA.

The Power MMA Team representative won his first 12 professional fights, eight of them finishes, before suffering back-to-back defeats to Jon Jones and Tito Ortiz in 2011. Bader has gone 14-3 since, losing only to Lyoto Machida, Glover Teixeira, and Anthony Johnson.

Crossover appeal: Conor McGregor Launches Whiskey Brand

4. He belongs to an exclusive group.

Bader is one of six fighters who have captured the undisputed Bellator light heavyweight championship. Christian M’Pumbu, Atilla Vegh, Emanuel Newton, Liam McGeary, and Phil Davis are the others. He is due to pass M’Pumbu (650 days) for the longest 205-pound title reign in the organization’s history on April 5.

Ryan Bader

Ryan Bader punches Rashad Evans. Photo: Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC (Getty Images)

5. He made his mark at the highest level.

Bader remains tied for second on the UFC’s all-time list for wins (15) by a light heavyweight, along with the aforementioned Ortiz and Chuck Liddell. Only the incomparable Jones (17) has more.

Find more content like this at