Two-weight Bellator champion Ryan Bader’s attention is firmly fixed on defending his light heavyweight strap Friday at Bellator 244, and he hopes to stick around for another title defense at 205 pounds before moving back up to heavyweight and settling some unfinished business with Cheick Kongo.
Speaking with MMA Junkie in the lead-up to his light heavyweight title defense against Vadim Nemkov at Mohegan Sun Arena, Bader (27-5 MMA, 5-0 BMMA) laid out his ideal scenario for the months ahead, starting with a successful title defense in Uncasville, Conn.
“A perfect world for me right now would be to go out there, beat Nemkov, defend that light heavyweight belt, then turn around and fight again at light heavyweight,” Bader explained. “I would like to get two in at light heavyweight while I cut down, while my body’s down there, and then revisit heavyweight.”
Bader said there’s an obvious matchup waiting for him when he does return to heavyweight, as a rematch with French contender Kongo (30-10-2 MMA, 12-2 BMMA) offers a compelling opportunity to settle the score with a man “Darth” has little love for.
“I do feel like Kongo and I have some unfinished business, and we were kind of gearing up to fight him in August anyway, so that’s definitely a fight that I would revisit, absolutely,” Bader said. “I’m one of those guys where I know it’s competition, and blood flows and emotions are high. But everything, just the way he carried himself, pushing me at the weigh-ins and saying it was my fault somehow, to the eye-poke thing, when there’s clearly video evidence to the contrary where I poked him in his nostril. Then him coming out and talking smack the whole time afterwards.
“Luckily we get to do something that a lot of people who don’t like each other wish they could do – fight. We get to do that for cash, and I definitely want to revisit that with Kongo, for sure, and ultimately beat him to decide that in the cage in a fist fight.”
The first meeting between the pair was prematurely halted and rendered a no contest as a result of Kongo being unable to continue due to the alleged eye poke. But Bader said he had the clear upper hand when the fight was stopped and doesn’t expect things to be any different when the pair eventually meet again.
“I feel like in that first fight he was minutes away from getting stopped by ground and pound anyway, so I see that going exactly the same.”