Daniel Cormier became the first man to win light heavyweight and heavyweight belts simultaneously in the UFC. Shortly after, Ryan Bader conquered both titles under the Bellator banner with an impeccable run at the heavyweight tournament.
Bader won the 205-pound gold in his Bellator debut by defeating Phil Davis via split decision and defended it with a second-round finish over Linton Vassell. “Darth” didn’t think twice when Bellator announced its plans to hold a heavyweight grand prix, and he couldn’t have done better.
In an eight-month span, Bader dominated Matt Mitrione and knocked out “King Mo” Lawal and Fedor Emelianenko — in a combined time of 50 seconds — to win his second belt. Cormier’s double championship run included finishes over Volkan Oezdemir, Stipe Miocic and Derrick Lewis in 2018, making fans wonder how a fight between both champ-champs would go down.
DC and “Darth” were booked to fight in 2015, but Cormier was shifted to a title fight with Anthony Johnson instead. Bader was riding a four-fight winning streak at the time, and added another one to his record over Rashad Evans months later, but the championship collision with Cormier never came to fruition.
Following Bader’s incredible tournament run, barely getting punched throughout the entire heavyweight grand prix and winning 12 of his last 13 fights over former UFC, Pride, Strikeforce and Bellator titleholders, Power MMA head coach Jair Lourenco sees him ready to prove he’s better than UFC’s heavyweight king.
“That’s the fight we wanted. That’s the fight everybody wanted,” Lourenco told MMA Fighting. “It’s an old rivalry, and it would be the first champ-champ vs. champ-champ cross-promotion in MMA history. That only happens in boxing. That’s a fight I wanted to see.”
Lourenco started coaching Bader in 2016, right after his knockout win over Ilir Latifi, and currently sees his student as one of the three best pound-for-pound fighters in MMA today. For the Brazilian, Bader can stop Cormier.
“I believe that a five-round fight would be a great scenario for us,” Lourenco said. “Bader does great in five-round fights, but they both have heavy hands. I wouldn’t be surprised if it was a war, but I believe Bader has a great chance of finishing him inside five rounds.
“Cormier is a great guy, much respect to him, but I see a good match-up for Bader. Cormier is an excellent wrestler with a good game on short range, the same game Bader does well. Cormier did more in pure wrestling, but Bader’s wrestling in great for MMA.”
Both Bellator and the UFC have yet to announce who’s next for the champions.