MMA champion and former ASU Ryan Bader is also a mentor outside of competition

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At a comfortable heavyweight with no significant weight to lose and no extra training to undertake, Ryan Bader was ready when Bellator MMA came calling for another fight.

The promotion offered the veteran fighter another fight at the Footprint Center in Phoenix, near his home, after he fought there Oct. 16 at Bellator 268, and it was an easy decision for Bader.

He had lost by quick technical knockout the last time he stepped in the cage at the Suns, to Corey Anderson at light heavyweight that night.

“It didn’t go the way we planned in the last fight. I absolutely wanted to send him back to Arizona for sure. The Arizona crowd showed up and they did so well that Bellator called and said ‘Hey, we can lock the imprint Center in January, would that be too soon? ‘” Bader recently said. “I said ‘No, let’s go. I feel healthy, I feel great. I’m heavyweight too, so let’s go. I want another shot. Excited on this subject.”

Bader, the only fighter in Bellator history to hold both heavyweight and light heavyweight titles, puts his heavyweight championship on the line in his first fight in that weight class in more than two years. when he takes on Valentin Moldavsky (11-1) in the Bellator 273 main event in Phoenix on Saturday, January 29. A native of Reno, Bader wrestled at Arizona State University and stayed in the area, where he and his wife are now raising a family.

Bader (28-7, 12 KOs) said being a two-time champion will always be a highlight of his career, but after losing the light heavyweight title, he’s looking forward to being able to just focus on winning. to be a heavyweight. At 38 years old after fighting in the UFC and Bellator, Bader still enjoys training and competing, feels healthy and has no plans to retire just yet.

He also enjoys being a friend and mentor to up-and-coming light heavyweight fellow Reno native and ex-Sun Devil Sullivan Cauley. Bader and Cauley often train together.

Cauley, 2-0, is on the Bellator 273 undercard in Phoenix. He and his father always followed Reno athletes who were successful in professional sports, and Bader was among those whose careers Cauley followed.

“I’ve always been a fan of his,” Cauley said.

When Cauley was offered a wrestling scholarship by ASU, it was an easy decision to accept. Cauley said Bader heard about a Reno wrestler at ASU, the two met at Power MMA and Fitness (now closed) and they hooked up.

“If you’re a big guy and you struggled in ASU, it was a no-brainer to go to Power and train with Bader and CV (Cain Velasquez),” Cauley said. “I learned a lot, not just from his mentorship and what he (Bader) says, but how he leads by example.”

Cauley, 25, is looking to savor her moment under the lights of the Footprint Center. He fights Ben Parrish of Mississippi.

“I’m fighting a guy that’s got a little bit more notoriety than the last guy I fought, so I think that’s really good for me. I can kind of steal his thunder when I have a dominant win here. , which I think I’m going to do,” Cauley said.

As someone who has been through the fighting part and the business part of the sport, Bader has a lot of wisdom to share with someone like Cauley who is relatively new to the fighting game.

“I always tell him, ‘Man, you’re so much further than I was at this point in my career,'” Bader said. “He’s only getting better. I really think he’ll be one of the stars to come out and be champion one day for sure, very soon here.

“He just needs experience and all that, and the right fights to show him off and he’s going to be tough.”

Cauley overcame performance anxiety and the fear of not competing as well as he could. He said he used meditation to help with this.

“I trust myself to go and play like I know I can under pressure now,” Cauley said. “I train so hard and my skills are so good. I compete against world class fighters in the gym all the time. I have a lot of confidence in myself at this stage that when I show up in competition I will be able to bring the heat.”

Contact Jose Romero at [email protected] Find him on Twitter at @RomeroJoseM.

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