clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Unbeaten Ryan Bader Likes Underdog Role Against Jon Jones

LAS VEGAS -- Ryan Bader is the one with an undefeated record, but you wouldn't know it listening to the pre-fight chatter.

The fans, the media, the oddsmakers, they're all picking his UFC 126 opponent Jon Jones to continue his march up the divisional ladder and put an end to Bader's successful stretch. It's not a role that's bothersome to Bader, who understands the excitement that surrounds Jones. In fact, he says that he himself has enjoyed watching Jones' star rise. But his own interest in Jones' style takes a one-night sabbatical on Saturday, when Bader tries to prove that he is the light-heavyweight division's chosen one.

"A lot of people, the media and fans have written me off in this fight," he said. "He's been rolling through people," he said. "I'm undefeated but he's been doing it in devastating fashion, knocking people out in the first round. He's flashy, dynamic and people like to see it. We're pretty much total opposite fighters. I'm more basic and he's got his funky moves and all that. I relish the underdog role. People aren't giving me the chance, and it's going to feel good to prove a lot of people wrong."

To do that, the 12-0 Bader knows he'll need a more impressive performance than he had in his last match, an important win over the respected veteran Antonio Rogerio Nogueira at UFC 119. According to Bader, he did not have a strong training camp heading into that match. He says he spent too much time traveling in a car from gym to gym instead of focusing on improvement. That problem has been rectified with the opening of a gym -- Power MMA and Fitness -- he co-owns with CB Dollaway and Aaron Simpson, that puts all his training under one roof.

Jones has unique skills and traits that make him a difficult style matchup for anyone, the least of which is his ridiculous 84.5-inch reach, the longest in the UFC.

How Bader approaches the problems Jones presents will go a long way in determining his fate.

"You don't want to be outside and let him develop any offense," he said. "His legs are as long as his arms, so he can kick you from that distance, too. You have to get inside. I'm not going to go out there and parry his jab and jab back. I have to get inside. I have to use head movement. I have to move. Key to the fight is me not standing there. Sometimes in the past I've said, 'Ah screw it, come at me and I'll try to hit you with my power and we'll see what happens.' I've got to move in this fight. I can't stand and let him develop offense and score points.

"A lot of his offense isn't necessarily devastating, but he can score the points," he continued. "His kicks and his punches, if you look at his last fights, they're not overly powerful. His punches aren't powerful, his kicks aren't powerful, but when you mix that unorthodox stuff with the elbows and that kind of stuff, if you're not expecting it, and you don't know how to defend it, that's when you're going to get caught."

In training, Bader's sparring partners mimicked Jones, throwing flashy offense.

But Bader also wants to remind the world that he's not just going to be standing around in awe or on defense. He's got offense of his own, including a thunderous right hand and a powerful takedown game. Along with that, he says is a full arsenal of kicks, knees and more, which he feels will be unleashed as he continues to feel more comfortable in the cage.

"I just want to fight how I am in training, and I feel like I'm getting to that point and growing as a fighter," he said.

Bader also says he feels emboldened by his improved stamina. In the past, he's faced criticism from those who believed he's faded in the second half of fights. Among those is Jones. Bader acknowledges it's a valid assessment of his past, but says it's a problem that's been addressed.

"As I've grown as a fighter, I've been conserving more," he said. "Not necessarily being conservative, but knowing how to use that power, when to relax. I just feel better now. My last fight, I thought that was an issue, so this camp we made sure it wasn't at all."

At worst, it's a battle between two of the UFC's brightest prospects. At best, it may be the start of a long rivalry. And for Bader, it all makes perfect sense.

"This is a fight the fans want to see," he said. "We're two young guys coming, and we're bound to be on a collision course. Here we are, February 5th. I'm honored. This is a big card for me, and I'm ready to rock and roll in this fight and go out and prove I'm here to stay. We're both the future of this division and it's going to be a great fight."

Sign up for the newsletter Sign up for the MMA Fighting Daily Roundup newsletter!

A daily roundup of all your fighting news from MMA Fighting