The Imperial March is blasting in the background as Ryan “Darth” Bader continues to run through top-ranked light heavyweight contenders. However, he might want to invest in some better speakers because the UFC has yet to catch wind of the tune.
It’s no secret that winning isn’t enough to get by in the fight business. You have to be entertaining. If you’re not a very entertaining fighter, then you damn sure better be an entertaining character outside of the cage. Chael Sonnen never had the most aesthetically pleasing style inside of the cage, but outside, he was a modern-day Andy Kaufman.
After constantly being snubbed in the title picture, Bader went full Sonnen and crashed newly-crowned UFC light heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier’s post-fight press conference celebration in May.
(Warning: Video Contains NSFW Language)
It was a genius move — or so it seemed — that garnered plenty of attention in the public eye. People were finally talking about Bader as a title contender. Even Cormier appeared to be onboard after the press conference incident. But the grudge match never materialized. The UFC opted to go with Alexander Gustafsson as the title contender, and Bader was given former UFC champion Rashad Evans.
When speaking with Fox Sports, Cormier admitted he felt bad for Bader:
“Honestly, I do I feel bad for him. You know what that almost tells me, honestly? It almost doesn’t matter what he does in any situation regardless of what’s going on, it will be hard for him to get a title fight.”
Bader swallowed his pride and shifted his focus to a showdown with Evans in the co-main event at UFC 192. It was either coincidence or plain cruelty that he had to serve under the light heavyweight title fight between Cormier and Gustafsson. But Bader set aside the trash talk and let his fist do the talking.
The evolution of Bader’s striking was made apparent against Evans, who was outpointed in every round of the fight. Instead of slinging overhands and misguided hooks, Bader honed in on his jab and improved footwork to pick Evans apart. There wasn’t any highlight reel ending, but it was a fairly dominant performance for the NCAA Division I All-American wrestler.
You would think a win over a former champion would more than enough to finally get Bader over the hump, but he still looks like the odd man out at light heavyweight.
After being stripped of the UFC title and suspended indefinitely, Jon Jones was recently sentenced to 18 months of probation and avoided jail time for a felony hit-and-run charge back in April. With no jail time in sight, Jones could be reinstated in the UFC any day now. Videos of him working out and talking up a potential return have already gone viral.
UFC President Dana White has already confirmed Jones will get an immediate title shot upon his return. If a rematch between Jones and Cormier is on-deck, Bader will be forced to put his win streak on the line once again against another dangerous contender.
“Obviously, I do want a title shot,” Bader said at the UFC 192 post-fight press conference. “We’ve got Jon Jones back in the picture. So for me, I’m going to control the things I can control and that’s the fight in front of me, that was Rashad. We’ll just see what happens.”
Being in the right place at the wrong time is never an ideal situation, but after earning yet another big win, Bader is forced to make the most of it.