Ryan Bader has adjusted to his new life as a heavyweight after back-to-back wins in the ongoing Bellator Grand Prix.
On Jan. 26, Bader hopes to cap off his run through the tournament with a win over Fedor Emelinanko and become the first ever two-division champion in Bellator history while winning the light heavyweight and heavyweight titles.
When the Grand Prix first started, Bader said his ideal ending would be a fight against Emelinaneko, who is routinely regarded as one of the greatest heavyweights of all time. Some would argue that Emelianenko is in fact the best heavyweight of all time considering his long string of accomplishments and gaudy resume over the years.
Then again, Bader was college teammates at Arizona State with former UFC champion Cain Velasquez, who is often injected into that same conversation as the greatest heavyweight in the history of the sport.
Bader doesn’t really get into the debate about who has the better record or accomplishments but as much as he respects what Emelianenko brings to the table, the reigning Bellator light heavyweight champion still believes Velasquez was better inside the cage.
“I don’t really have a one greatest. I do believe him and Cain are two of the greatest heavyweights of all time,” Bader explained when speaking to MMAWeekly. “Just from what he’s done, he has this mystique about him, he doesn’t let too many people into his personal life. He was wrecking people in PRIDE. I do think he’s up there top three.
“Do I think Cain is better? Yes I do. If they fought, I think Cain would beat him every time. That’s not taking anything away from Fedor, that’s just how good Cain is.”
Velasquez has done a lot as a multi-time champion but unfortunately injuries have robbed him of years during the prime of his career.
After last fighting in 2016, Velasquez is poised to make his long-awaited return to action in February in a showdown with knockout artist Francis Ngannou in the first ever UFC card on ESPN.
Obviously, Bader will be rooting for his friend and former teammate but more than anything he hopes Velasquez is able to stay healthy to prove that he’s on another level when compared to every other heavyweight in the UFC.
“I hope that he can be healthy from there and go out and prove that,” Bader said. “But I feel the same, I’ve always felt that way. He’s had the natural gift ever since wrestling and then transitioning from wrestling to MMA, it was just a flawless transition. I hope he can get in there and be healthy and do what he does best because if we don’t see him in there, it’s a shame for all the MMA fans.
“Because from what we’ve already seen and what he’s capable of, we’ll see more of that for sure.”