Ryan Bader believed he was ready to compete for the UFC light heavyweight title.
The promotion did not.
Bader is currently a free agent, but is expected to finalize a deal in the coming days to join the Bellator MMA roster. He talked to “Submission Radio” recently about his decision to leave the UFC for Bellator.
“Yeah, for me it wasn’t just about are you gonna pay me more money? It was more involved than that. I think I’m at the best point, physically and mentally in my career. I’m the best fighter I’ve ever been and whatever organization I was going into, I was going into to win the belt and have that mentality,” he said. “I wasn’t a guy coming over to say, okay, I’m going over to Bellator cause I lost a bunch of fights in the UFC and I’m gonna go over here and try to fight out a couple of fights at the end of my career. That’s not even the case. I’m going over there to win that belt. I feel like I’m the best fighter I’ve ever been at any point in my career right now and just getting started. And so for me it was a ton about that plan. You know, there was times in the UFC where I felt I had some missed opportunities – yeah they were my fault sometimes with certain fights here and there, but there were times when I definitely earned that opportunity and never knew where we stood, you know, that maybe if I beat this guy I get a title shot or this and that.
“So for me, a big part of coming into these negotiations was saying, alright, say we’re talking to Bellator, what’s your plan for us, what’s gonna happen? And they had the right things to say and laid that plan out for me and had that ready. So I was excited to hear that for sure.”
Bader also explained that the decision allows him to build up his bank account through sponsorship deals, something that took a hit when the UFC signed with Reebok.
“And one thing too which is huge for me is being able to have our own sponsorships. In the UFC before the sponsorship with Reebok, the least I’ve ever made was $35,000 – and I made up to $80,000 a fight. And so that’s a huge amount per fight to be cut. I mean, yes, we do get paid on tenure and I was one of the highest tenure guys, and we all know how that works with Reebok, but it’s a huge thing to be able to represent your sponsors again,” he said. “And I have sponsors that have stuck with me through that whole process of not being allowed in the cage and all that, so it’s a great opportunity to get them back out there and kind of repay them when they stuck by and they’ve always been a part of your team.”