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On the Cusp: An Interview with Ryan Bader

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community news, On the Cusp: An Interview with Ryan Bader 

 

For Ryan Bader, Saturday night presents itself as an obstacle and an opportunity: he could breach the top of the light heavyweight division. The Ultimate Fighter winner, fresh off two straight wins, faces Ovince St. Preux in a fight that leads him a step closer to redemption against reigning champion Jon Jones.  Bader, a former All-American wrestler has had doubt cast over his career lately, trading wins and losses, and almost always falls to the light heavyweight division’s top contenders. Fightland spoke to Bader during his last preparations before UFC Fight Night: Bader vs. St. Preux to understand what’s changed in his mentality and preparation. We spoke about his newfound confidence as a well-rounded martial artist, and his own thoughts on the life of a wrestler and how using momentum is his key strategy to victory.   Fightland: How are you thinking about the OSP fight, and how important is the finish for you? Ryan Bader: Me and OSP match up in a lot of good ways for the fans. In my last fight I kind of had to game-plan a little bit. I feel comfortable anywhere for OSP, on the ground or on the feet. It just translates to a good fight for the fans. I want to go in there and finish a tough guy on a four fight win streak and solidify myself. I’m looking to get a top five opponent next. Really keep this momentum going. How did you deal with the Glover fight, and what changes have you bought about to yourself and training? Yeah it’s all about keeping on the path and momentum I’m on. I’m around the right people now. About a year and a half ago I got a legit boxing coach that I’ve been learning the game from. Before that I just had mitt guys, and I just didn’t know any better. Know I’ve been learning to fight with a jab and head movement, footwork, feinting, the whole deal. So that’s really made me feel more comfortable in the octagon, which in turn lead me to being more comfortable in setting up my takedowns and vice versa, setting things up with my hands with feints. Also, we’ve been building a team around us with head coach Aaron Simpson. I’ve been really feeling comfortable in the last two fights and this will be my third fight with this improved team. I feel this can be one of those fights where I can just let everything go and just have fun in there and it’s opposed to my last fight where I’m fighting a tough heavy handed striker and you can’t play into his game, you have to expose his weaknesses. So with this fight I feel like I can go anywhere and be good.  You mentioned how important momentum is leading up to a fight? Can you explain that thought process? What is your mental state like right now? Yeah I think it’s huge. At the beginning of my career I really was just a wrestler. I went on a good winning streak and then had some setbacks and began alternating wins and losses. Fighting tough guys, but still alternating. I’m on a two fight win streak, looking to make it three. It’s really all about confidence and knowing that I’m doing the right thing. It’s all about the momentum in my mind-set. Knowing that I’ve switched things around and I have the right people around me in my inner circle. They are a reminder that I am doing the right thing, and so, going into a big fight looking to go 3-0, I feel my confidence is there, I know I’ll be in shape and I know my skills are improving every time I go in there.  I know I’m the best fighter I’ve ever been when I walk into the octagon next weekend. So that’s huge. When you’re winning and losing, then winning and losing, you have that in your head. Man, what’s going on with me? Why can’t I put a string together? So for me, momentum is huge. It’s a reminder that I’m doing right by myself.  How do you deal with winning and losing? What does it feel like to have to internalize both? After a loss, all I can think about is going back in there and getting a win. I don’t dwell on my losses, I learn from them. That’s what I’ve done for the four losses that I do have. An example is what can I improve on from the Glover fight? Well I can improve on my patience, I was feeling fine in that fight and then I had him rocked and everything just went out of my mind. I completely opened up, forgot my distance and just threw big punches. Where I should have been tight and sharp, so from that I learned to be more composed. You’ve talked about fearing gatekeeper status? What are your thoughts about where your career is going? I don’t just want to be a guy who’s in the top ten. I want to be that top contender. Then I want to be the champion. For me, this is incredibly true. I don’t want to wind up being a gatekeeper and having to fight these guys that are new to the UFC or break outside of the top 15, I had to beat a guy like Feijão, I have to beat a guy like OSP if I want to go where I want to go.  What separates those top five guys from everyone else in the division? Experience and belief in themselves. I’ve been in there with the best guys and for me a lot of the times (like when I fought Lyoto) looking back, it just wasn’t my time. Say if I had beat Jones and then beat Shogun for the title, I think that would have been the worst thing for me because I didn’t have the skill set then that I needed. I would have gone on and lost who knows how many in a row. At that time I knew I could hit hard and I could wrestle. I had no idea how to box with people. Now I feel like it’s my time. I’ve addressed my issues, and I’m continuing to get better.  I feel, now is the time for it to happen, beat those guys and figure out what all my mistakes were and when I got into those positions fighting guys like Machida and Glover, where it was so close and it was taken away, I need to reverse all this and be the guy who moves on and gets to the title. My time is now, I’ve learned from my mistakes and I have the best people around me. I would have loved to have been champion before, but I now know that I would have never have lasted long. I can do it now.  As a fighter, what’s changed in you after your last loss? It’s all been about mixing up my style to incorporate my boxing with my wrestling and jiu jitsu. I broke my hand two fights ago, and really when it comes to the wrestling, I’m always winning. In my losses, it’s been an account of me trying to exclusively do one thing. Kick box with Machida, kick box with Glover. When I throw in my wrestling, I think I’m hard to beat.  What’s your mental state like in this fight week? The mental state I’m in now is really about confidence and knowing that when I get into the octagon I’m going to perform. For me, experience is a big thing and this will be my 15th fight in the UFC and I’ve seen it all in there. So I’m not going to be surprised. I’ve delivered knock outs, I’ve been knocked out. I’ve won and lost, and known the feeling of both. I’ve been there with a who’s who of MMA at light heavyweight and nothing rattles me anymore. When I was younger, I would be standing across from a guy thinking holy shit I grew up watching you fight and that’s not my mentality anymore. My mentality is I’ve put in the work, you’re not going to take this away from me and I’m going to win and work toward my goals.  I just turned 31, I’m not that kid anymore, so I’m looking to keep that win streak going. I like to stay relaxed before fight time. I already put in a good camp; I don’t like to overthink it. Sometimes you catch yourself thinking about tangibles, then you realise when you go in there who the hell knows what’s going to happen in there. You have to trust and believe in yourself. I know I’m going to fight every time.  During that period where you began alternating losses, did doubt ever seep into your mind? After a couple of fights you kind of question yourself and question your training. When we first started the gym, kind of nomadically you get those thoughts o…

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