Everyone defines success differently, and Ryan Bader is raising the bar for himself.
Winning the 8th season of The Ultimate Fighter and defeating a handful of the best light heavyweight fighters in the UFC fold would be enough for some, but the 30-year-old Power MMA product isn't anywhere near satisfied. And for good reason.
While Bader has remained in the upper-tier of fighters competing at 205-pounds, steps back at crucial junctures have halted his progression. On two occasions the former Arizona State University standout appeared poised to make a run at a potential title shot, but ended up coming out on the business end of high-profile bouts with Jon Jones and former champion Lyoto Machida respectively.
When an unthinkable loss to Tito Ortiz is factored into the equation (and his ability to rebound from adversity in the aftermath), the resiliency of Bader shines through clearly.
For Bader, those losses were difficult to deal with, but ultimately provided the heavy-handed powerhouse with a unique education. Going into The Ultimate Fighter, he was a 24-year-old kid with just one year of competition under his belt.
Granted, he managed to pack seven fights into a 13-month wrecking spree on the southwest regional circuit, but was yet to face the level of adversity he was about to face competing on the sport's biggest stage.
In the five years he's been competing inside the Octagon, Bader has not only faced some of the best fighters on the planet, but marriage and a growing family have also shifted his perspectives on fighting and personal maturity.
"I do look at this as a career now and focus on it a lot more than I did in the past," Bader told Bleacher Report. "I have a family to cater to and they are very supportive. That changes things for sure. I'm focused on those two things, where in the past, I could have been thinking about a million other things. I'm thinking about progressing my career and taking care of my family and that focus has allowed me to really buckle down a lot more and become better in all aspects."
These circumstances and conditions have brought Bader to the place where he is ready to make his mark on the light heavyweight front, and that mission will begin in earnest on Wednesday night when he faces highly-touted contender Glover Teixeira at UFC Fight Night 28 in Belo Horizonte, Brazil.
Bader acknowledges he's about to face an opponent on a 19-fight winning streak in the hostile territory of Teixeira's native country, but he believes it is the perfect atmosphere to make his biggest statement to date.
"It doesn't matter where I fight," Bader said. "I've fought in Japan, Australia, and a few other places outside of the country. I'm undefeated fighting outside of the states and I'm looking to keep it that way. This is a big fight, a main event, and even though it is in Brazil, it really makes no difference to me. I'm just going to keep my head down and stay focused.
"Coming into this fight, [Teixeira] is definitely the favorite. I'm not supposed to beat him but I'm going to prove everyone wrong, and jump up into one of those top spots where he is at right now. A victory could lead to a potential title shot and all that good stuff, but I'm going to take that away from him and jump up into a top spot.
"This is one of the biggest fights in my career and it's going to put me where I want to be," Bader added. "He has a lot of hype around him, and beating him can show everyone I'm a new fighter and that I deserve to be up there."
Duane Finley is a featured columnist for Bleacher Report. All quotes are obtained firsthand unless noted otherwise.
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