After his last fight, against Jon Jones, former “Ultimate Fighter” winner Ryan Bader felt what it was like to taste defeat, and it’s something he never wants to have to swallow again.
Never one to make excuses, Bader reflects back now and sees the Jones fight as a hurdle that he couldn’t jump at the time, but recognizing what went wrong and fixing those problems are what’s going to lead him back to the top of the division in the future.
“It was a combination of him being a very good fighter and me just felt like not showing up,” Bader told MMAWeekly Radio about the Jones fight. “I felt flat out there. I was actually right before the fight, I’m sitting there right about to fight in a big time fight, and I was sitting there yawning and I was like ‘what is going on?’ I’ve been in competition enough to know that happens sometimes, so whether it was the magnitude of the fight or all the media coming up to that point, I don’t know what it was, but I was really pissed off after that fight.
“Not so much that I lost, but that I didn’t show up to fight at all.”
Bader admits that it took him about a week after the fight, waking up each day feeling the sting of that loss, before he was able to shake himself out of the funk and get back into training. The motivation started to flow again, however, when UFC matchmaker Joe Silva called him and offered him a fight he had been asking about for months.
The name that Silva revealed was former UFC light heavyweight champion Tito Ortiz as Bader’s next opponent.
Immediately, any doldrums washed away and Bader was re-energized for his next challenge. Bader looks at Ortiz as an icon of the sport, and the chance to face him in the cage is an honor.
“The thing about the Tito Ortiz fight is just being able to get in the Ocatagon with a guy like that. Being able to be in there with somebody that’s been around the game, and started this MMA game and got it to where it is today. I’m a fighter and a MMA fan. Watching Tito with a similar background, and Chuck Liddell and Randy Couture, I grew up watching those guys. For me, this is like a bucket list fight,” Bader said.
“Tito Ortiz is on my record, hopefully in my win column, but on my record that I fought a guy like that and it may not boost me up the rankings as fighting a top three guy or whatever, but I wanted to fight a guy like Chuck Liddell, like Randy Couture, Tito Ortiz, before they all retired and two of them are gone now, and Tito’s left and I got the opportunity to fight him.”
Before this fight, it has been talked about that a loss could mean Tito Ortiz would not only be out of the UFC, but he might be retired all together. It’s not something Bader wants to think about because his goal isn’t to retire Tito Ortiz, but the former Arizona State All-American has his own career to look after and if this fight is a passing of the torch, then so be it.
“I don’t really want to be the guy that puts him out and retires him, he’s been around so long and he did a lot for this sport, but that’s my job to do,” Bader stated.
“I’m not going to go in there and lay down so he can keep his job with the UFC. It’s my job to go out there and beat him.”
On the other side of the argument, Bader is currently ranked in the top ten in the light heavyweight division and Ortiz hasn’t won a fight since 2006. The odds have Bader as high as a 5 to 1 favorite in some sportsbooks.
While the pressure is on Ortiz to save his career, Bader knows that a loss in this fight would be almost as equally devastating to his career as well.
“If I beat him I was supposed to win, but what happens if you lose to him?” Bader questioned. “He has a losing record right now over the last couple years, so I have some pressure, too. Obviously, he is at the tail end and this could be his last fight.”
What Bader doesn’t want to hear going into this one is that he’s supposed to smash, crash, and run through Tito Ortiz. Despite his losing record, Ortiz has hung tough with his last few opponents, all of them top ten level in talent.
“Tito’s a tough opponent for anybody. I’m not taking him lightly at all,” Bader said. “I’m training my ass off, and I’m ready. I want to go out there and look great. I put in the time in the camp to achieve that come fight time.”
Bader will see if he can not only scratch Tito Ortiz’s name off his bucket list, but do so with a win on Saturday night at UFC 132.