Reigning Bellator heavyweight champion Ryan Bader is unsure what the future holds for the promotion he’s called home for the last six years.
Bader was originally scheduled to defend his title against Linton Vassell at Bellator 300 on Saturday night. Unfortunately, Vassell was forced to withdraw days ahead of the anticipated clash due to an illness. With rumors swirling that the promotion could be sold at any minute, Bader is coming to terms with the possibility that he may never compete under the Bellator banner again.
At this point, Bader has no idea what will become of Bellator’s roster in the event of a sale, but the former UFC standout has every intention of rolling with the punches as things play out.
“I’ve had some talks with my manager about ‘what ifs,’ but really nobody knows what’s happening,” Bader told MMA Fighting. “So what you can do, keep that on the outside and take care of your job. Put yourself in the best position moving forward with a merger or who knows what happens. Are we all free agents? Are we merging with PFL? We don’t know.
“You can think of all different scenarios, but none of them may be true. What we have to do is keep our heads down and think about the fight in front of us, and put ourselves in the best position to get your contract picked up, or if you’re a free agent, a new contract. Being the heavyweight champion has a little bit of weight going into that.”
Ryan Bader is unsure about Bellator’s future, but eyes "very, very interesting" Francis Ngannou fight
— MMA Fighting (@MMAFighting) October 7, 2023
Thus far, the popular theory is that Bellator will be absorbed by the Professional Fighters League as the PFL continues to aggressively expand across the world.
In May, the UFC made waves when it signed former UFC heavyweight world champion Francis Ngannou while simultaneously announcing a proposed expansion into the Cameroonian’s native Africa. Currently, ‘The Predator’ is gearing up for his pro boxing debut against Tyson Fury on October 28, but once their bout is in the books, Ngannou is expected to focus on making his PFL debut in 2024.
No official opponent has been announced for Ngannou’s premiere inside the PFL Smart Cage, but if Ryan Bader gets his wish, he’ll be the man to welcome Ngannou back to the world of mixed martial arts.
“[Ngannou] has a minimum [of $2 million dollars], and that’s anybody that fights him gets $2 million,” Bader said. “You go in there as a champion and negotiate your terms too, that’s a nice little payday and something you work toward. Something like that’s definitely on the line, so maybe this is happening at the right time for the right reason.
“Obviously we’ve got to see how things shake out, but it seems to be happening at the right moment. It’s one of the things I’m talking about. If this merger or whatever comes to happen, that’s a big money fight and it’s something that’s very, very interesting.”
After competing against a who’s who of talent in the UFC’s 205-pound division, Ryan Bader moved to Bellator in 2017 and promptly found success by capturing titles in both the light heavyweight and heavyweight divisions. Since signing with the promotion, Bader has added nine more victories to his resume, including two wins over Russian MMA legend Fedor Emelianenko.
Watch some of Ryan Bader’s best moments in Bellator below: