Ryan Bader, a light heavyweight prospect climbing the ranks of a stacked division only four fights into his UFC career, has been on a meteoric rise since his time in “The Ultimate Fighter” house.
His rise can quite simply be summed up with the opponent the UFC has selected him to take on next, Antonio Rogerio Nogueira.
Nogueira’s extensive career in the sport has garnered him a reputation as one of the best, and at UFC 106 he showed why.
The Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt and top level striker took on fast-rising knockout artist Luiz Cane in his UFC debut, decimating his fellow Brazilian in the opening round with a striking assault that led to the knockout. He followed up the win with an unimpressive split-decision victory over Jason Brilz at UFC 114, but, regardless of his prior performance, his reputation as one of the division’s best remains.
And Bader realizes this.
“I’m not going to take anything lightly judging from his last fight at all,” said Bader in his interview with UFC.com. “It’s a huge step up in competition. A top five, top ten guy, but that’s where I want to be. You’re not going to progress not fighting those kinds of guys.”
Bader is progressing in this sport at an impressive rate. His opponent, a 22-fight veteran of mixed martial arts, having fought in promotions such as PRIDE and Affliction, has been fighting since 2001. Bader, on the other hand, has only been a professional mixed martial artist since 2007.
Yet even with only limited experience, the 11-0 light heavyweight has cruised through nearly every fighter set before him. He rolled through the competition on “The Ultimate Fighter”, won his next two fights, and then the promotion considered him ready for a big jump up in competition.
Keith Jardine, a longtime veteran of the sport and former contender, was his most recent test, the man to determine whether or not Bader could enter into the next tier of competition. Bader battled Jardine for two and one-half rounds before earning the knockout victory in what was certainly one of his most impressive wins to date. But, with the work ethic and drive he has, one should not be surprised at the consistent results.
“If there is anything that I take from Lil’ Nog is the respect and that I do have to work my ass off in the gym,” said Bader. “Day in and day out, I’m going to put that work in and there’s nothing left to do but fight. You can talk all you want. You can go over gameplans all you want, but it’s on you when you get in the Octagon, when you touch gloves, do whatever you have to do. You’re in a fight now.”
Bader will certainly find himself in a competitive fight on September 25. “Lil’ Nog” is undoubtedly his most accomplished opponent yet. While Nogueira brings with him a well-rounded game with his high level striking and Brazilian jiu-jitsu, Bader brings with him incredible wrestling and power in his hands.
Bader’s most notable success in wrestling began while he was in high school, winning two state championships during his time at McQueen High School. After that, Bader joined the highly-touted Arizona State University wrestling squad, joining the likes of Cain Velasquez and C.B. Dolloway on the squad. While there, Bader won three PAC 10 championships and was a NCAA Division I All-American on two occasions.
To say his amateur wrestling career was a success simply does not do it justice. Bader boasted a phenomenal career with a plethora of championships and an incredible amount of wins (120 throughout his collegiate career). Bader, however, says that all his accomplishments are pushed aside when the cage door closes, because in a fight, no matter how many titles you have held, or how many wins you have, the man across from you is looking to take all the credibility you have gained away from you.
“Accolades and everything go out the window,” said Bader. “It’s just you and your opponent. I want to be the best. My ultimate goal is to be champion and I have to go through these guys to do that.”
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