Bellator heavyweight champion Ryan Bader defends his title this Friday evening in Paris (live from 8:30 pm on RMC Sport 2) against French pioneer and local legend Cheick Kongo. Faced with a chamber won from his opponent, the American intends to avoid the coronation he had dreamed of and will be able to rely on his vast experience from a career in which he has competed with many big names in the discipline.
Cheick Kongo in the center of the Bercy cage late this Friday night, Bellator heavyweight champion belt on his shoulders in front of an ecstatic crowd. The image makes all fans of French MMA dream. But to see how the tricolor pioneer marks a little more the history of his discipline in our country and offers himself a sublime icing on the cake of an already legendary career, it will be necessary to overcome an obstacle determined to be throne not to let go: Ryan Bader. The American fighter, thirty-eight, knows that he will not please the Parisian public (to say the least). Forget it.
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Hostile atmospheres, he knows. They even seem to motivate him. “I’ve fought in Brazil where the fans are ‘You’re going to die!’ when you return to one of them he smiles at the microphone of RMC Sport I feed on this energy good or bad It’s a great moment for MMA in France and I’m abroad coming to disrupt all this “I hope to earn the respect of the fans when the fight is over, that they will be fans of mine and then cheer for me. I can’t wait to see their energy and be a part of that moment.” .’ †
There is a side of quiet strength in Ryan Bader for this cage encounter in Bellator Paris apotheosis. Logic. The boy has seen others. Former high-level college wrestler, a discipline he began at age seven, the Nevada native began his professional career in MMA in 2007 before quickly joining the UFC via his eighth opus victory. The ultimate fighter, the reality show of the American organization. If he never wins a title in the UFC, “Darth” (his nickname) will face a string of MMA legends: Antonio Rogerio Nogueira, Jon Jones, Tito Ortiz, Quinton Jackson, Lyoto Machida, Glover Teixeira or even Rashad Evans .
When asked, he says that he would also have liked to compete against Mauricio ‘Shogun’ Rua. This has never been done before, but this armored list of great champions has already been written as a dive into the history of his discipline. “I don’t often look back on my career, but when I go to check the exact date of one of my fights, I see this list and I think, ‘Damn, I really do have a lot of the biggest names in the game history of this sport. !’ When I retire it will be great to look back on all that, but for now I’m still focused on what lies ahead, on my next fight.”
Winning doesn’t always come against the big boys, but Ryan Bader proves he deserves his place at their table. In 2017, he joined the other major world organization, Bellator, and marked the beginning of his new challenge with a coronation by beating Phil Davis for the light-heavyweight title. Finally champion, he was not satisfied with this first gold and in 2018 won the World Grand Prix heavyweight tournament, the million dollars that came with it and especially the empty title in the category, beating another MMA legend in the final. Fedor Emelianenko.
He then becomes the first double champion in two categories simultaneously in Bellator history. His first defense of the heavyweight title, in September 2019, ends in a finger in the eye controversy he continues to deny today, inflicted on challenger… Cheick Kongo, whom he dominated until then. Nearly three years later, the two meet in Bercy to settle their scores, the title in play. Meanwhile, Bader has dropped that from light-heavyweight to Vadim Nemkov. But he has no regrets, stating that he could no longer tolerate “(s)e kill health” to gain weight in this category.
Over the past few days, at a press conference or at the weigh-in, where Bader has logically fallen with his gang every time, the American has calmed down, very respectful of his opponent. As if he came to do a job the outcome of which is undoubtedly on his mind despite two defeats in his last four fights. The consequence of this beginning of the first shock against Congo where he clearly had the advantage of the idea of a similar scenario? “Every fight is different and you never know how it will go, what position you will find yourself in,” he replies. I think I could do the same, but you never know. I don’t want to get it in my head that it will turn out exactly like that, because if it doesn’t, it’ll take me out of my game plan. I’m prepared for anything.”
At thirty-eight, Bader almost looks like a youngster compared to Congo’s forty-six springs. The passion for his sport remains strong, solid, intact. But after so many fights (29-7 in career), the American already sees the end of the road in sight. “What keeps me going? My competitive side. I’ve always loved competition. If I don’t have it, I feel like something is missing in my life. I don’t I don’t have many years ahead of me in this sport because I don’t want to keep fighting when I’m 43 or 45. Right now I also feel in great shape, although when I was twenty two, and I can train like I have to to win.the day I don’t will be the day I say I’m done with this sport.”
Bader has just signed a new four-fight contract with Bellator, starting with this second clash against Congo. But after that… “I’m going to finish it and we’ll see what happens behind it. This contract has to be completed in the next two years and I want to do other things, enjoy my family to the fullest because even if I train close my house and MMA gives me the freedom to be with them more often than in a ‘normal’ job, you have to be selfish when you’re fighting between training camps and everything else.” That’s a good thing: Ryan Bader will face an entire room alone this Friday night as he enters the cage with local legend Cheick Kongo.