Ryan Bader to Bellator is official.
Bader confirmed the news to Ariel Helwani on Monday’s edition of The MMA Hour and detailed some of the unique contract provisions that landed him with the promotion. MMAjunkie first reported Bader’s official signing earlier Monday.
“Darth” has been a perennial UFC contender at light heavyweight for years. The 33-year-old has been a free agent since a third-round TKO win over Antonio Rogerio Nogueira in November. The UFC had an exclusive negotiating window and then matching rights over any deal, but did not make an offer to match Bellator’s contract, Bader said.
Bader said he signed a six-fight deal that has a full purse, rather than splitting between show money and a win bonus. The Arizona resident said he puts his contract up there with almost any other in MMA, with the exception of the very elite.
“I think it’s one of the better contracts out there, outside of being a UFC champion with pay-per-view points and stuff like that,” Bader said.
One of the unique aspects of the deal, Bader said, is an inactivity clause. Bellator has to book him to fight three times per year (barring injury), and if it does not, Bader gets his full purse to make up for it.
Another major reason for his interest in Bellator, Bader said, was more sponsorship money coming into play. Two years ago, the UFC signed an exclusive apparel deal with Reebok, which prohibited fighters from wearing their own sponsors in the cage and during fight week.
In exchange, Reebok pays fighters a fee based on tenure with the UFC. The most money earned is $40,000 for champions and $30,000 for title challengers. A fighter with 21 or more UFC fights makes $20,000 from the Reebok deal per bout. Bader, with 20 fights, was just under that, making $15,000 per fight.
That represented a major decline in his income, Bader said.
“The lowest I’ve ever made — and this was on the prelims — was 35 grand on a fight,” Bader said, referring to before the Reebok deal. “I’ve made upwards of 80 grand on a fight on sponsors.”
As far as his first fight with the new promotion, Bader said he’d like an immediate title shot against Bellator light heavyweight champion Phil Davis in June. Bader owns a win over Davis in 2015.
“It makes sense for me to go in there and fight for it,” Bader said. “I don’t think too many people can bitch about me coming over and getting an immediate title shot.”
Bader, a two-time wrestling All-American from Arizona State, had wins over Nogueira (two), Davis, Ovince Saint Preux and Rashad Evans, during his UFC tenure. He was the champion of The Ultimate Fighter 8 in 2008. Bader said he’d also be open to fighting Fedor Emelianenko and Tito Ortiz in Bellator, but wants a title shot first.
“Leaving, it’s kind of bittersweet,” Bader said. “It’s refreshing, it’s something new heading over to Bellator. But I spent my whole career in the UFC.
“Looking back, it’s sad, but at the same time it’s refreshing. I’m excited for something new.”