Ryan Bader will likely defend his newly captured Bellator light heavyweight title before the year is over, according to Bellator president Scott Coker.
“Bader should fight ‘King Mo’ (Muhammed Lawal) next,” Coker said Monday on The MMA Hour. “King Mo’s ready to go down to 205 and ready to fight before the end of the year, so maybe we’ll have Bader and King Mo before the end of the year.”
A longtime contender in the Bellator light heavyweight division, Lawal fell short in his only previous shot at Bellator’s 205-pound crown, losing a unanimous decision to Emanuel Newton back in Nov. 2013. In his most recent performance, “King Mo” defeated Quinton “Rampage” Jackson in a heavyweight rematch at Bellator 175.
Bader, meanwhile, captured the belt this past Saturday with a contentious decision win over Phil Davis at Bellator 180. The fight was a rematch of a Jan. 2015 meeting between the Bader and Davis that took place under the UFC umbrella, and it played out much in the same way as the first contest — a grinding affair that ended in a polarizing split decision.
Nonetheless, Coker saw a difference between the two bouts.
“I think it was different in the sense that, this fight, I felt like, because I was there, they were throwing some heavy blows,” Coker said. “Look at Phil’s face, right? I mean, Phil threw some heavy blows at him. These guys were trying to throw some heavy blows. I think that when they started booing, it was almost like, ‘man, this crowd’s tough. These guys are trying to really take it to each other.’”
Much like the first meeting, the rematch between Bader and Davis at Bellator 180 was closely contested, with the grinding styles of the two powerhouse wrestlers largely nullifying one another.
Of the 15 media scores recorded on MMA Decisions, eight media members scored the bout for Davis, six scored it for Bader, and one scored the contest a draw. And in Coker’s view, any one of those three outcomes is a defendable scorecard.
“To me, I think honestly, in my eyes, it could’ve went either way,” Coker said. “And that’s why it was a split decision. You’re just kind of making a decision one way or the other as a judge, and it’s tough. I would not want to be a judge. I was a judge one time for a kickboxing fight way, way back. Just once, and I said I will never be a judge again, ever. I will never be a referee. I will never be a judge. I’m just not built that way. You have to have, I think, a unique something in you.
“The pressure from the crowd, I’m sure — these judges are sitting there and it’s ‘boo this, boo that,’ and then one way or the other, at the end of the day, somebody’s going to be upset. I just don’t like that feeling.”