September 17, 2010

by Damon Martin – MMAWeekly.com When Ryan Bader got the call that he was going to fly to Australia and face Keith Jardine at UFC 110, there was a slight doubt in his mind if he was ready.

Sure, Bader was “The Ultimate Fighter Season 8” winner, and he had gone 2-0 since winning in the finale, but he knew that facing a fighter like Jardine was a big step forward in his career.

That all changed just seconds into the first round.

“To tell you the truth, I got the call last time, ‘you’re fighting Keith Jardine’ and I was in college watching these guys, watching MMA, watching ‘The Ultimate Fighter’ and all that kind of stuff, so that was a big step for me,” Bader explained when appearing on MMAWeekly Radio. “Going in there and not knowing what to expect with a guy like Jardine. He’s fought Rampage, and Chuck Liddell, and all that kind of good stuff.

“I went in there and right after the first exchange happened, I knew I was fine, like okay I belong here.”

Once that moment clicked, Bader was more than okay because he ended up getting a TKO win over Jardine in the third round, propelling him to his next fight, a showdown with Antonio Rogerio Nogueira at UFC 119 in Indianapolis.

To look at their records, Nogueira has double the amount of experience as Bader, but the former Arizona State All-American is looking at this fight in another way. He’s looking at Nogueira as the next step towards a title shot.

“After I beat Jardine, this is definitely what I wanted. I didn’t want to go backwards from Jardine, I wanted to go forward and ultimately get my goal, which is the UFC title. They offered up Nogueira, it seems like a great logical step. He’s top five, top seven right now at 205, and that’s where I want to be,” Bader said.

“I want to keep climbing up that ladder, and he’s the next rung.”

Heading into this fight, Nogueira has said some things about Bader, as should be expected, in interviews. He’s stated that he plans on handing the former “Ultimate Fighter” winner his first career loss, and that if he wants to win he should avoid the ground game at all costs.

Bader was listening, and he thinks he’ll do just fine against Nogueira, wherever the fight goes.

“I watched his interview and he said the smartest thing for me to do is keep it standing and all that kind of crap,” Bader commented. “I don’t worry about what he’s going to do. I’m going to go in there and implement my game plan. I’m going to mix it up just like (Jason) Brilz did, and I have powerful and heavy hands, and I can definitely take him down whenever I want.”

In Nogueira’s last fight, late replacement Jason Brilz did seem to surprise the Brazilian with some solid wrestling skills, ability to get the advantage in the scrambles on the ground, and almost caught the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt with a submission of his own. Nogueira ended up getting a split decision nod over Brilz, but not without several fighters in the light heavyweight division taking notice of what went wrong that night.

Bader was definitely watching that night, but he’s prepared for whatever old tricks or new ones that Nogueira can throw at him.

“I’m expecting the best Nogueira that’s ever fought, and that’s how I’m training,” said Bader. “I’m training to go out and go to war with the best Nogueira we’ve ever seen.”