Ryan Bader saw his unblemished mixed martial arts career tarnished when his path crossed with another rising star Jon Jones. For the first time ever, Bader found himself on the wrong end of a dominating performance.
He understands how it happened, and more importantly why, and now looks to the future when he will hopefully find the opportunity to chase redemption against the one man ever to beat him. The path back to a man many consider the future of the sport starts this weekend.
Ironically, Bader's first steps towards avenging that loss lies in battle with a man considered one of the pioneers of the sport and the UFC light heavyweight division. To chase the future, Bader will have to defeat the past.
Tito Ortiz has long been one of the iconic figures throughout the entire sport of MMA. Many athletes are superstars in this sport, few actually transcend the sport and become the model for what people think of when they think MMA or UFC. Guys like Randy Couture, Chuck Liddell and Tito Ortiz are those types of legends.
Like him or not, and everyone falls on one side or the other, Tito Ortiz is forever entrenched in the history of the sport as not only one of its greats but also a vital component to its very success.
So it comes as no surprise that Bader is very excited to have an opportunity to test himself against a legend. Perhaps Ortiz is not the same fighter he once was, but Bader has great respect for both the fighter Tito was and who he is today. He speaks highly of this chance the UFC has given him.
Leading up to his bout with Ortiz at UFC 132, Hurtsbad MMA was able to touch base with “Darth” Bader. He shared his perspective on how this match was made and his overall thoughts on fighting a legend.
Bader told Hurtsbad MMA, “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 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 there 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.”
If Bader can capitalize and defeat Tito it would prove a great starting point for him to get him back on track for a shot at the title, and/or Jones. Time will tell, but the first steps start when Bader and Ortiz take their walks to the Octagon at UFC 132.
Before Bader can look forward, he will have to face this man who has made a career out of grinding down opponents and sapping them of their will. Again, Tito is not the lion he once was, but his reputation wasn’t built on accident.
And it is no secret that type of talent Bader brings to the table. He has been one of the most successful light heavyweights not named Jon Jones since Chuck Liddell was on top.
He was on a five-fight win streak in under two years with names like Lil Nog and Jardine at the top of the list. That was before Jones. So there is no reason to expect anything less than a resilient and fresh Ryan Bader who is looking to turn the page to a new chapter in his career.
The bittersweet symphony for Bader may become his role in potentially retiring Ortiz. For a man Bader has seen as a fighter he respected and looked up to, it may add some weight to an already compelling match up between two fighters who represent different eras of the sport.
With Ortiz losing four of his last five, another misstep will most definitely signal the end of a historic run in the game. If that happens, look no further than Ryan Bader for a candidate to pick up that torch and continue on.
This fight could signify the end of an era, but it also could mean the beginning of another. This division was built with the blood, sweat, and tears of men like Ortiz, Liddell, and Couture. Now tomorrow's legends, Bader, Evans, and Jones will take it further than it has ever been.
Win, lose, or draw Ortiz and Bader can both take pride in that.
This article originally featured at Hurtsbad MMA.