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Ryan Bader '90 Percent' Sure He Lands In Bellator MMA, Not UFC

Ryan Bader '90 Percent' Sure He Lands In Bellator MMA, Not UFC

Ryan Bader details his current free agency situation with Bellator MMA and the UFC.

Feb 23, 2017 by FloCombat Staff
Ryan Bader Expects Free Agency Resolution
Light heavyweight mixed martial artist Ryan Bader is arguably the hottest free agent in MMA right now, and for good reason. 

The former ​The Ultimate Fighter​ winner is 7-1 in his last eight fights inside the UFC Octagon, knocking out his last two foes in brutal fashion. With his UFC contract up, Bader decided to test the open market rather than simply re-signing for life inside the eight-walled cage. Speaking with FloCombat's Duane Finley during the recent FloCombat Road Trip, Bader discussed his current situation at length, saying he's content with the way things are falling. 

"It's a good situation to be in," Bader said. "But I'm a free agent. Before my last fight, I decided, I got a UFC contract, I decided to fight it out. I fought 'Lil Nog' [Antonio Rogerio Nogueira] down in Brazil, ended up getting a TKO, and was kind of able to see my worth outside the UFC.

"I got an offer from Bellator. Right now, I've had a lot of questions like, 'Where are we right now?' Right now, we're in the phase where UFC has it and they have a right to match, so we're kind of sitting on our hands right now, kind of waiting." 

While Bader's position in the grand scheme of the MMA world is currently uncertain, he said he expects resolution soon—within the next two weeks, to be exact.

"I believe [the matching period is] only 14 days," Bader said. "There's a little issue, kind of a contract, legal issue we're working around and what not. I believe [the] 14 days started either yesterday [Feb. 20] or today. Yeah, hopefully in a couple weeks [it's resolved]. I came out and saw—through the media—saw that Dana White wasn't going to match it, so I took that for what it was worth. I know it was in the media and what not, so for me, it's looking like 90 percent I'm going to Bellator, but UFC still has it and still has the right to match and, who knows, could potentially match it. So that's where we're at. I can't sit here and say I'm a Bellator fighter or I'm a UFC fighter because I do not 100 percent know." 

Through the process, Bader has learned plenty about free agency in MMA, and being a true veteran of the sport, he commented on the changes and shifts in its landscape.

"Three, even three years ago, five years ago, this wouldn't have happened," Bader said. "Nobody fights their contracts out. A few people did. Gilbert Melendez did, a few people, but now you're going to see a lot more people doing it. There are options outside of the UFC. I came up in the UFC. I had five fights, local fights, then I went into ​The Ultimate Fighter​, I had 20 fights in the UFC. So I love the UFC, and I had a great time, but at this point, I got to look at what's best for me.

"I had the opportunity to be a free agent. In my last eight fights, I'm 7-1. I'm ranked No. 4 or 5. In any other sport, this is what you covet as an athlete, to get the opportunity to see what you're worth outside in the market. It's a great opportunity for us. We took advantage of it, and now here we are. Whatever happens, whatever we decide, we're going full force. We're not looking back. We're moving forward, and I feel like I'm the best fighter I've ever been and I'm going to continue in whatever organization to keep trying to go get that belt. I'm the best fighter I've ever been right now." 

​Watch the full 31-minute interview with Bader, where he discusses free agency, Bellator light heavyweight champion Phil Davis, and much more right here: