On December 13, 2008, Ryan Bader defeated Vinicius Magalhães to win a UFC contract and the title of The Ultimate Fighter's light heavyweight championship.
On April 1, at Ultimate Fight Night 18 aired on Spike TV, Bader will take his 8-0 MMA record into the octagon against Carmelo Marrero. It is Bader’s first fight since coming off the reality TV show and is all part of his five year plan to ascend the light heavyweight division and one day be champion.
I had the chance to speak this Ryan this week and got his thoughts on a number of issues. The full interview is below.
Your upcoming opponent Carmelo Marrero beat your training partner Steve Steinbeiss, in their most recent fight, by a close split decision. What did you learn about Marrero in that fight and what will you utilize to ensure a victory for yourself?
I got to watch that fight, I was in the stands live. I got to hear firsthand what Steve said about Carmelo and I have watched video on him. He has good wrestling and is always in good condition. I feel I have better wrestling so that will put the pressure on him. I have better standup too. I won’t be going into the fight with a specific game plan though; I am going to let this fight go where it needs to go. I see him ending up on his back though. When a wrestler is on his back he is in a different world. From there, the ground and pound can take over. Its one of those fights where I can utilize everything that I have been learning as a fighter.
You are pretty solid at 205 pounds. I heard you walk around at 225 pounds. Would you ever pull an “Anderson Silva” and cut down to 185 pounds if that was the best road to title shot or are you committed to light heavyweight for the next 2-3 years?
Yeah that’s about right. I am pretty solid at 225. I gained a lot weight from weight lighting. I am used to cutting weight and I have done it my whole life in wrestling. As far as cutting down to 185, I am pretty set at light heavyweight. In college I cut to 197 pounds and that was pretty brutal so I couldn’t see myself getting down to 185 at all.
You were the first Light Heavyweight selected by Coach Nogueira. One would have to imagine it was priceless experience training with a legend like Noguiera. What is your relationship like with him like now that the show is over?
It was awesome working with Nogueira, watching him work and hearing what he has to say about the sport. We have gotten to continue our relationship since the show. We were actually in the same locker room at UFC 92 when I was cornering for C.B. Dollaway and we got to talk for awhile. Its one of those things where I can call him up and he will have us come down and set us up at his place so. He is an awesome training partner and just an awesome guy in general. I cant say enough good things about the guy.
You have a great team at Arizona Combat Sports, training with guys like C.B Dollaway, Jaime Varner, and Matt Riddle. Can you tell us more about the environment at ACS and what makes training there such a good fit for you?
We started as a bunch of wrestlers from Arizona State University and they turned us into MMA fighters so it’s a perfect fit for us. The guys in the gym are tight knit. Everyone is there for each other. Its not one of those deals when you’re done training for your fight and then you take off for a couple months. I might take a week off after my fight and then I am right back in the gym helping whoever has an upcoming fight. C.B. Dollaway has a fight coming up at UFC 100 I will be there for that. Were there to look after each other and we’ve been successful with that so far.
What has the addition of Carlos Condit brought to the training camp?
Carlos is a very intense dude and that really transfers over to training. He is always going at 100 miles per hour and when you start sparring with him you know you’re in for a fight no matter what. He brings the whole MMA game, especially with his knees and elbows so I love training with him. He is a great guy who fit right in and his work ethic is second to none so it’s great to be able to feed off his energy level. It’s been great to have him there.
How do you think Condit will fit into the welterweight division with studs like George St. Pierre and Thiago Alves?
Oh yeah for sure. Watching him train, I didn’t know before that. I’d seen a few of his fights and knew he was a great fighter. If you would have asked that question awhile back I wouldn’t have been 100% sure. But watching him train, he goes against the top guys in our gym. He picks up stuff so quickly too, I have no doubt he'll be a top contender right away. He is going to come in and win the fight with Kampmann and be right in the mix.
You are listed as a wrestler with heavy hands. That would cast you in the same mold as guys like Dan Henderson and Rashad Evans. Do you plan on becoming dominant within this mold or do you plan on adding other aspects to your MMA game like George St. Pierre has done?
I definitely want to evolve to that GSP type fighter which has every dimension to his game. A lot of people haven’t seen my submission skills and I think I am starting to turn the corner as far as in the fight. I am definitely a young fighter and have only been doing this for two years. It takes some time to get that cage time in to where your really comfortable going for an armbar and even if I miss it I am on my back but knowing I’ll be fine. I’m continuing to work and grow and the submissions are coming along. I will be looking to utilize them more in future fights for sure.
I spoke recently with Junie Browing and he said, “I am definitely rooting for Bader to win. He is a phenomenal wrestler and I glad I didn’t end up drowning him in that pool.” What is your relationship like with the controversial albeit entertaining Browing?
(Laughs) Yeah, Browning and I are fine, we're friends I'd say. Its not like we talk everyday on the phone but when we see each other we’re friendly. I’ve seen him after a couple of fight cards. We really just had that one blowup and he apologized profusely for that, even after the show. He told me it was more geared for television and playing that role he wanted to play which worked because he found a niche for himself. Other then that stuff, he is a very respectful guy. I wish him the best of luck in his fight and hope he does well.
I read that your goal in the next five years is to fight for the belt and win that belt. It took TUF 2 winner Rashad Evans just over four years and nine octagon fights to win the title. Do you see yourself going down a similar path?
Yeah, that would be perfect. I would go as far as saying I wouldn’t want to fight for the title in two years. I am a young fighter and I want to become well rounded. When the time comes I want to be the best fighter that I can be. I definitely need time to grow as a fighter and get a lot of fights under my belt. That being said my goal is to win that belt. I am not here to be a run of a mill fighter. When I go for something, I go for it 100%. As of right now, I just need to win the fights in front of me. When you look past that, that is when you start dropping your fights. So yeah, I’m looking to do it exactly like Rashad did. I just need to win my fights and the title shot will come.
Lots of fighters want to fight for and win a title. What are the three qualities that will set you apart from other fighters that will actually allow you to accomplish this feat?
I would definitely have to say my wrestling pedigree sets me apart from a lot of the fighters, that level of wrestling. I will really allow me to dictate where the fight goes. My athleticism is also big for me. I would say my work ethic is also a huge part of it - my capacity to not be afraid of hard work and being in the gym. My desire to be the best at what I do is what is going to allow me to become the most well rounded fighter I can be.
I saw on your own website you talking about setting up websites, twitter, etc. Do you consider yourself technologically savvy and are you learning these things so you can remain current and connect with your fans?
I wouldn’t say savvy, but I am not too bad. (Laughs) I’d say somewhere in the middle. I like to stay up to date and the technology today is awesome. I want to keep the fans updated and give offer a more in depth experience. It’s fun for me to be able to interact with the fans as much as possible, that’s what it’s about for me.
Your old collegiate teammate Cain Velasquez looks like he is an absolute beast in the octagon. How would you hold up in a three found fight with him?
Wow, it would be very tough for me because he is a little heavier. He has looked great standing, and he also has that wrestling background which no one has really even got to see. Honestly, if there was one person in the UFC I wouldn’t want to fight it would be Cain. He is also a good buddy of mine so I am hoping for the best for him. I sure wouldn’t want to fight him and it sucks for all the people that have to!
What fighters, from MMA past and/or present, do you really admire and look to for inspiration or to emulate?
Obviously Nogueira, his heart and toughness are inspiring. I watched Dan Henderson a lot. I like watching people from similar backgrounds so Rashad Evans and also Josh Koscheck. I was a sophomore in college when he appeared on the first season of The Ultimate Fighter so it gave me a lot of inspiration. I love to watch Fedor for his dominance and well roundedness. I definitely try to watch all the fights I can and pick up little things that I can utilize in my game.
Some of your former 205 pound castmates have fights coming up at UFC 97. Krzysztof Soszynski will face off against Brian Stann and former teammates Vinny Magalhaes and Eliot Marshall will collide. Of the three, which fighter do you think has the best chance of joining you as a top 10 fighter in the future?
Vinny is tough and if he can get his stand up game where it needs to be he could be very tough fighter to deal with. Elliot is a very well rounded fighter; Krzysztof obviously has the heavy hands. The fight between Elliot and Vinny will tell us a lot. I thought Elliot was the most well rounded guy on the show actually so it will be interesting to see how it plays out.
Sherdog is famous for asking fighters their predictions on fights. Do you have an early pick for the following fights?
UFC 97: Liddell vs. Rua:Watching Shogun’s last fight, I see Liddell taking this one. Shogun was one of my favorites in PRIDE. I think Liddell will catch him at some point. If Shogun gets tired, Liddell is not the kind of fighter you want to be in there with. He will look to finish him.
UFC 98: Evans vs. Machida: This is a really tough one and I could see it going either way. I am going to say Rashad by decision because of the wrestling. It might be a little boring but with Machida you never know.
UFC 99: Franklin vs. Silva: This is another tough one. I want to say Wanderlei but I think Franklin might actually take this one. I think he might outbox him a little bit and with a tough fought decision.
UFC100: Lesnar vs. Mir: Lesnar for sure. I actually talked to Mir and he said Lesnar was the biggest more agile fighter he had ever fought. I don’t think you’ll see Lesnar get caught this time around. I see this one ending by stoppage.
UFC 101: Penn vs. Florian: B.J., he will have too many tools in this one.
UFC 102: Couture vs. Nogueira: This is tough because Couture is one of the worst matchups Nogueira can have right now. I am going to have to stick with Nogueira. He could get taken down, pull guard, and hopefully pull off a submission from his back.
It's time for shout outs: Who would you like to recognize?
I would like to say thanks to Tapout. Also, to one of my sponsors who is very cool; they are helping out our troops, at their wesbite here. It’s a “shower in a towel." You can go on their website and the will send it out to the troops. Check everything else out at my website here.
Thanks again Ryan. Best of luck in your upcoming fight with Carmelo Marrero.
I appreciate it. Thank you very much.