Like just about everybody else, two-division Bellator champion Ryan Bader was surprised to hear that the UFC voluntarily released Corey Anderson from his contract so he could sign a new deal with the Viacom-owned promotion.
At the time that he asked for his release from the UFC, Anderson was ranked No. 4 in the light heavyweight division with a 4-1 record in his past five fights, including wins over former title contender Glover Teixeira and highly touted prospect Johnny Walker.
The UFC’s loss is ultimately Bellator’s gain, and Bader was happy to hear Anderson was joining the promotion, even if that means facing a familiar face gunning for his 205-pound title.
“I know Corey pretty well, too, we trained together in the past,” Bader revealed when speaking to MMA Fighting. “I brought him in when I fought Phil Davis and all that kind of stuff.”
“That’s a great pickup for Bellator and I think it was a great decision on his part, too. I can guarantee you he’s getting paid way more.”
Bader made a similar decision when he entered free agency and opted to leave the UFC in order to sign a contract with Bellator.
Since that time, Bader has gone undefeated in six straight fights, including a run through the Bellator Heavyweight Grand Prix, where he had a chance to test himself in a new division while also taking home a second championship. The opportunity to participate in a tournament like that is just one of many reasons Bader loves calling Bellator his home.
“With Bellator, just like myself, it’s a little more freeing for yourself,” Bader explained. “Like I did for myself. Like I got to do the Grand Prix and all that.
“I’m very happy for Corey and he brings another good name and some depth to the division and some new blood. Obviously, he’s going to be in title contention or be fighting in a title eliminator right away.”
There’s little doubt that Anderson will be coming for the light heavyweight title, but Bader welcomes that challenge, especially because the list of contenders at 205 pounds was starting to get a little thin.
Bader is currently scheduled to defend his title at Bellator 244 on Aug. 21 against surging Russian contender Vadim Nemkov, and if he’s successful in that fight, there’s a potential rematch with former UFC champion Lyoto Machida that could be on the horizon as well.
Outside of those two fights, Bader doesn’t have a lot of other options available to him at light heavyweight, and Anderson joining the division changes that.
“He’s a great name, and he just knocked off one of the UFC’s rising stars in Johnny Walker,” Bader said about Anderson. “He was on a good streak, a top-four [ranked] guy. I welcome all these guys to come over. It was getting kind of stale.
“Like what do we do? Do we do another rematch with Phil Davis? Go out and beat [Vadim] Nemkov, and then what are we looking at? He’s definitely welcomed and I’m excited about that fight, excited for him and excited for Bellator.”
As far as Anderson asking for his UFC release in order to sign with Bellator, Bader believes he’ll also be very happy with that decision in the long run as well.
While every contract decision ultimately comes down to each individual athlete, Bader couldn’t imagine himself anywhere else but Bellator after signing two different contracts with the promotion.
“When I came over, my first contract, I was definitely making more substantially than I was in the UFC,” Bader said. “I bet on myself. I said this is a very nice contract but I’m looking at that next contract in Bellator. I went and did my job. I went and became double champ.
“After the Fedor [Emelianenko] fight, I had two belts and I had one more fight left on my contract and it was time to start negotiating. We wanted to stay with Bellator and forget what you see in the media and that stuff, they made me very, very happy and there was no other choice. No other choice but to re-sign with Bellator so there are definitely options.”
Bader cautions anyone looking at the salaries some commissions release regarding fighter pay while adding that those financial figures are rarely accurate.
He knows for certain how much he’s being paid from Bellator, and there’s nowhere else he’d rather be right now.
“People always say, ‘Oh I saw the payouts,’ and you can’t read those,” Bader said. “Bellator is definitely stepping up and paying these guys, paying us. I had a great contract coming out of the UFC into Bellator, but it was that second contract that made me really, really happy.
“I think more and more people are going to see this as an alternate route and kind of bet on themselves. I get wanting to fight in the UFC. I got my start there. I fought 20 times there. I won The Ultimate Fighter. I was top-five pretty much the whole time. It definitely was a great period in my career, but it was time to move on.”