Ryan Bader may be on the mend, but his return to action is beginning to come into focus.
The light heavyweight powerhouse is coming off a three-round drubbing of Anthony Perosh back in December where he battered the "Aussie" for the entirety of the 15-minute affair. While he picked up his ninth win under the UFC banner, the victory had some bittersweet elements as he broke his right hand in the process.
In the immediate aftermath of the fight, the former Arizona State University wrestling standout had surgery to correct the issue, which included two metal rods being inserted into the hand to stabilize the break. Now, with his hand nearly healed, the 30-year-old Power MMA fighter is eager to get back into the gym and start his next stage of rehabilitation.
"I have these pins in my hand and I'm going a little crazy, but I'm doing what I can do," Bader told Bleacher Report. "They are coming out next Friday so that will be a good start. I can't sweat right now because I pretty much have an open wound right now. That could easily get infected and go right to the bone, which would be some bad stuff. I get them taken out next week and I can at least get back to doing some cardio to get things moving back toward my return. I'm excited for that.
"They basically drive the pins through your bones to connect one side of the break to the other," he explained about the surgical process. "They straighten them out under X-ray guidance, and leave the pins sticking out so they are easy to get to when it is time to take them out. They use a pair of pliers and pull them out. I imagine that is going to be fun."
Since winning the eighth season of The Ultimate Fighter, Bader's progression from being a wrestler with a big overhand right into a fighter with a broader skill set has been visible. His footwork and movement have improved in step with his ability to put together solid combinations in his striking game. Those elements have been a big part of his rise into the next tier of the light heavyweight division, and he's eager to get back to climbing the divisional ranks.
That said, he also understands the rigors of the sport in which he competes, and knows how important it is to allow the body to heal before pushing things into overdrive. If all goes as planned, Bader has his sights set on returning in early summer, and he's excited to pick up where he left off.
"The doctors are telling me everything will heal fine and be as strong as it was before," Bader said. "I actually broke the metacarpal, which is a different break than they were used to seeing, but it will be good once it heals. Right now I'm thinking it will probably be May. I will have to wear a removable splint another four to six weeks after the pins come out, but I will be able to start getting back into it with physical therapy and other workouts. Realistically I'm thinking I'll be ready to go in May and I'll be excited to get there."
Duane Finley is a featured columnist for Bleacher Report. All quotes are obtained firsthand unless noted otherwise.