by Brian Lopez-Benchimol – MMAWeekly.com
Winner of “The Ultimate Fighter” season eight, Ryan Bader is set to make his return following debilitating injuries this Saturday at UFC 104 in Los Angeles.
Bader followed his first round knockout of Brazilian jiu-jitsu ace Vinny Magalhaes in the finale with a win over veteran Carmelo Marrero, where he was last seen in action at UFC Fight Night 18 in April.
A clean sweep across the board, all three judges scored the bout 30-27 in favor of Bader, which was impressive considering he suffered torn ligaments, including his medial collateral ligament and posterior cruciate ligament during the bout.
“When I had the injury, I pretty much did it right,” he explained while speaking with MMAWeekly.com. “I let it heal; I took a month where I didn’t really do anything with my legs, just did some boxing, upper body, and then I slowly got back into it, rehabbing it and now it’s a non-issue. It’s 100-percent.”
Fellow Ultimate Fighter season eight winner Efrain Escudero was in the same boat as Bader not all that long ago. Injury after Injury kept “Hecho en Mexico” out of competition for close to nine months before making an emphatic return, knocking out fellow TUF alumnus Cole Miller inside of the first round at UFC 103.
Originally relegated to the preliminary portion of the card, Escudero’s fight was made available to the public through the efforts of the UFC and Spike TV brass. Two of the untelevised bouts at UFC 103 were aired free and live to the masses on Spike, which generated good numbers and served as an excellent lead in for the pay-per-view. Ryan Bader will serve in his own mini-main event for UFC 104, as Spike again will show at least two bouts prior to the pay-per-view.
“It’s a very cool thing for (Spike TV) to do, get more fights out there for the fans and obviously better for the fighters as far as sponsorship and being on TV. I’m excited to be on Spike again,” explained Bader.
The Arizona Combat Sports product has a stern test ahead of him, taking on Eric Schafer, who’s now on a two-fight win streak inside the Octagon. A proven competitor, “Red” Schafer stands to be a big step up in competition.
“Eric’s a tough dude. He’s got really good jiu-jitsu; he’s a black belt,” said Bader.
“He’s a strong guy, a big guy. He’s six-foot-three and he has that Octagon experience. He’s been in there with guys like (Michael) Bisping, (Stephan) Bonnar, Houston Alexander, and he’s been through adversity with the Houston fight. He was getting beat up pretty good at first and then took him down and submitted him.”
Though “Darth” Bader will be unable to summon the power of the “Death Star” come fight time, he will use his strong wrestling ability. He was a three time Pac-10 championship and held Division I honors as a college athlete at Arizona State University. It’s an area where Bader will hold the advantage come fight time and could help seal his third win in a row in the UFC, slowly breaking his way into the organization’s crowded 205-pound division.
“He’s been around, but I don’t think he’s fought a guy like me, with my wrestling background, and it will allow me to dictate the fight and not get taken down, not let him pull guard. We thought it was a good fight for me,” he assessed.
“I’m comfortable. If I wanted to I can take Schafer down. I believe I can take him down right off the bat and be able to win the fight on the ground, but we have our game plan coming up. I’m looking to stand with Eric. Why even give him the chance to get me down, or me take him down? So all-in-all, I’m comfortable wherever it goes.”