The career of Ryan Bader has known little more than absolute success. From his collegiate wrestling pedigree to his near perfect run in mixed martial arts, "Darth" Bader has represented excellence every step of the way.
Having suffered his first MMA loss to phenom Jon Jones, Bader has accepted defeat humbly and is looking to move forward and build upon the experience. Such was the tone when he sat down recently to speak with "The Truth Hurts" radio show at Hurtsbad.com.
Bader accepts his loss and holds theories as to why it may have gone the way it did, but more importantly, he is looking to his next bout with MMA legend Tito Ortiz and the grand opening of his new gym in Gilbert Arizona.
The gym represents the success of Bader's and a couple of his dear freind's careers. It is the accumulation of three teammates who have supported and pushed one another, dating back to their days in college. Bader was very excited to talk about the grand opening of their new facility.
Bader told Hurtsbad MMA, "It's called Power MMA and Fitness. It's a big gym, it's a 25k square foot facility. We have a little bit of everything in there. It's a fully functional fitness gym."
He added, "We have the 26-foot cage elevated right in the middle. We have two wrestling mats with the wall mats. We have a 50 by 50-foot area with bags and mats. We have saunas, we even have a half court basketball court."
"It was a dream of ours coming up wrestling and then getting into MMA, [and] now being able to open up our own spot. We have world-class coaching there. We are really looking forward to it."
As for enthusiasts in the scorching Arizona desert looking to take advantage, Bader had this to say regarding what to expect.
"It's a little different. It's a big gym and it's for everybody. It's not just for fighters and people who want to train be a fighter. We have plenty of cardio equipment and weight equipment. But also we want to build one of the best MMA teams in the country out of here."
Bader added, "We want to have guys coming through all the time. We have been having that, having a lot of UFC heavyweights coming down. Robbie Lawler is here, Demarques Johnson and all those guys. We get Matt Mitrione down here."
"Different guys are coming through here giving different looks, training with different people. We have two great black belts there training, Andre Maracaba and Kiko France. It's just a good atmosphere. We are all very competitive, and we all want to be successful. so we push each other pretty hard every day."
As for his partners, a couple names fight fans may recognize are lifelong teammates of Bader.
"Aaron Simpson and C.B. Dollaway. Those are guys I've wrestled with since ASU times. Aaron Simpson was a coach and C.B. Came over and was a main training partner. With me, him and Cain Velasquez, we were successful with the wrestling and moved over to the MMA and have watched each other become successful there."
Bader recalled the long road they have traveled together, "We have been training together ever since wrestling and we never stopped. When we moved into MMA we helped each other out and now it came to this, opening up our own gym together. We are still training every day and getting ready for the big fights."
Bader talked about how much of a surprise it is that his career has led him to this point. It was not what he expected right out of college.
"It's crazy, you don't really stop and think about it, but when you do, to look where we came from with wrestling thinking "Hey I'm done." My mindset when I graduated college was "I'm done." I was burnt out on wrestling, I was going to get a job and just live a normal life where I don't have to worry about going to the gym everyday."
That lasted about two seconds according the UFC light heavyweight standout.
"But as soon as I did that, the competitiveness in me, the desire to compete kicked into overtime and we started fighting and loved it. All four of us, me, Cain, Aaron and C.B. all came up together and we are successful. So it's really good to see all those guys come into the top of their game and be at the top level."
All of those phenomenal fighters spent time at ASU under the leadership of a common denominator. They sharpened their games under a man who has influenced some amazing careers, Thom Ortiz.
The former ASU head wrestling coach is the man who introduced Cain Velasquez to the sport of MMA. When he linked Cain up with the people at American Kickboxing Academy, he told them he had found the next heavyweight champ. As it turns out the man knows his stuff and it reflects in the careers of a Bader or a Velasquez.
"Thom Ortiz was our wrestling coach coming up at ASU. His first year at ASU was actually my first year. I was one of his first recruits. He has been a good friend this whole time. Not necessarily when I was a freshman and sophomore, but definitely after that and after college."
He went on to say, "He still comes into the gym today. He has fought a couple times. He's always around and has a great personality. He is always upbeat and hooked a lot of us up with the connections in the MMA game."
Thom is now a fight promoter and Bader, Simpson, Dollaway and Cain have come out to support the show. Bader talked about the event called the World Fighting Federation.
"Those are good events; they are some of the best shows here in Arizona. He throws some great shows down in Tucson. They have a great crowd and it's a great venue."
While Bader talked about the road he has traveled to get where he is today, it seemed appropriate to ask one of the UFC's most successful light heavyweights what his thoughts were now, looking back at his recent loss to Jon Jones.
Bader shared his perception with Hurtsbad MMA. "He is a tough fighter to prepare for and a tough fighter to fight. He is so long with those arms. When I was fighting him, I felt like every time I tried to close the gap or walk towards him at all, it felt like he could throw a punch from 10 feet away. His kicks also."
He also blames his mindset leading into the fight. Many fight fans would agree that the Bader who fought Jones was not the Bader many of them had grown accustomed to.
Bader agreed, "I don't know it was weird, it was just one of those fights where I didn't feel like myself in there. Maybe it was all the hype or the nerves or what not. Maybe I had some jitters or something, but I just felt out of it. That and the combination of him being unorthodox and having that length, [and] not really being able to get in on the inside."
While frustrated with the situation, Bader is not about to let it get him down and looks forward to improving and getting another shot at the only man to ever beat him in MMA competition.
"There are a lot of things I would do differently if I were to fight him again. And I do want to fight him again. But I have got to look towards my next fight now and keep winning and try to get back up to that level again."
Of course, Bader is notably excited about his next bout with MMA legend Tito Ortiz and takes great pride in the opportunity presented at UFC 132.
Bader explained how that fight came together and why he took it. "I always wanted to fight one of those guys like a Randy Couture, a Chuck Liddell or a Tito Ortiz. Chuck is done and retired, Randy is at the tail end of his career and picking fights and Tito is still going. I grew up watching those guys. Those guys come from a similar background as I come from with wrestling."
"So those are the guys I watched and I rooted for when I was in high school and when I was in college. So just to get the opportunity to fight one of them is an honor. As a fighter it's great for my career and resume. As a fan it's awesome because I get to go in their and be a part of his legacy."
Bader was sure to add, "And build my own."
He went on to explain, "So when Joe Silva called and we got the name Tito Ortiz we jumped all over it. It's one of those fights that I definitely want for my career and before he is gone or retires, I want to fight a guy like that. Here the opportunity was and I took it."
Surely it is one of many more opportunities that Ryan Bader will encounter as he continues to make his mark on MMA. Again, this is a man who has known more about success than he will ever know about failure.
His resume is indicative of his excellence, and his MMA career is still extremely young. At 27 years old, Bader still has plenty of time to write his legacy. The next step starts with Tito Ortiz and may include another run at Jon Jones before it is all said and done.
No matter where Bader is headed, it is where he has been thus far that tells us his future is well worth noting. With the hype of a Jon Jones seemingly swallowing the entire UFC light heavyweight division, the Ryan Baders of the world are far from done making their own marks on this division and sport.
Don't overlook him.
This article originally featured at Hurtsbad MMA.