That is the question posed to Bader after a crushing defeat to current UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones. It’s a question that he answers with an emphatic yes, and hopes to back up on July 2 in Las Vegas.
Bader (12-1) emerged from the eighth season of “The Ultimate Fighter,” winning the reality show with a first-round TKO of Vinny Magalhaes. He steadily rose through the ranks of the UFC, poised for a shot at then champion Mauricio “Shogun” Rua if he got past Jones at UFC 126.
That’s when the wheels came off.
“After the fight, honestly, it sucked,” Bader told MMAWeekly Radio’s Weekend Edition about the second-round submission loss. “For a week straight, I kept on thinking about what I could have done and what I should have done and all that and it eats at you.”
Jones’ victory put him in the title fight with Shogun instead of Bader, an opportunity he took full advantage of, destroying his Brazilian foe midway through the third round.
Many had questioned Jones’ legitimacy heading into that title fight, but his performance opened a lot of eyes. A fighter never likes to lose, and nothing makes it feel good, but Bader did take some solace in Jones dismantling a fighter that was considered the top light heavyweights in the world.
“To see him go on and destroy Shogun like he did… I wanted to see him be successful, obviously, because I have a loss to him,” Bader commented. “He went in there and pummeled a guy that many believe is one of the best fighters in the UFC.”
But seeing a fighter who beat him find success only carries a limited amount of mileage for Bader. In the end, a fighter doesn’t fight because he wants to be the next best thing. Bader, like others, wants to stand atop the mountain himself.
He hopes to start his rebound against a fighter that he’s been watching since before he even started fighting… Tito Ortiz.
The two wrestling-based mixed martial artists will square off in the co-main event of UFC 132 on July 2 in Las Vegas. UFC featherweight champion Dominick Cruz defends his belt against Urijah Faber in the card’s main event.
“I want to go out there and put on a great show and just erase the (Jones) fight from everyone’s memory,” Bader said of his fight with Ortiz. “I wanted to fight one of those guys like (Randy) Couture or Chuck Liddell or Tito because I’m an MMA fan.”
Ortiz’s stock has been on a downward trend for the past couple of years. UFC president Dana White has even declared this is Ortiz’s last shot in the Octagon if he doesn’t perform. Even with his legendary status, Ortiz can’t expect to hang around much longer when he’s lost four of his last five fights, and the other bout was a draw.
Bader doesn’t overlook him, however, noting that the win-loss record doesn’t tell the whole story.
“He’s still tough, people don’t give him enough credit. He hasn’t won for a while, but he’s been losing very, very close fights and there are no gimmees in this sport. So I’m training hard for him and I’m excited to fight a guy like Tito.”
Knowing that he could be the guy that forces Tito Ortiz into retirement, or at least out of the UFC, Bader doesn’t give that idea much thought. He can’t. He has a fight to win.
“I don’t like to look into that sort of thing,” he said. “I got a job to do and my job is to win. So I’m going to go out there and beat him and whatever happens, happens.”
Regardless of what happens to Ortiz afterwards, and knowing that a win over him doesn’t necessarily raise his own stock a ton, it’s still a somewhat surreal situation for Bader.
“Although it’s a step down in competition from Jon Jones and (Antonio Rogerio) Nogueira, I got a chance fight a guy like Tito, a legend of the sport, and we took it. It’s almost like a novelty fight for me going in there and (fighting) a guy I grew up watching. I’m a fan and a fighter. I want to be a part of his legacy and vice versa. I want to have Tito Ortiz in my win column.”
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