After being Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira's top pick during the eighth season of 'The Ultimate Fighter,' Ryan Bader now finds himself set to square off with his former coach's twin brother, Antonio Rogerio Nogueira. The former D-1 wrestling All-American will look to raise his profile while improving on an impressive undefeated record of 11-0. Slated as the Co-Main event of UFC 119 in September, a victory against Lil' Nog would propel Bader into the top echelon of the UFC's light heavyweight division.
Tell me a little but about your recent switch from Arizona Combat Sports with the Lally brothers to The Lion's Den in Scottsdale. Some guys seem to stick to one camp, but you made the decision to move feeling that you, along with CB Dollaway and Aaron Simpson, outgrew ACS. How has the move worked out?
We made the split from ACS but there were no hard feelings or ill will towards anybody. It was something we had to do for us. Here, we have individual coaching, a great boxing coach, muay thai coach,and jiu jitsu coach, so we're really individualizing everything and breaking it down. It's really helped a lot. I've improved drastically with my boxing, my standup, everything. Our core group staying together is what makes us really successful, being with those top training partners day in and day out.
You recently had surgery on your hand. How's the knuckle? Has it hampered your recovery or your training at all? is it a non issue at this point?
Yea, its not too much of an issue right now. I had the surgery, had it in a soft cast for a few days, but once that came off I wasn't really able to punch much. I really focused on improving my left hand, my hook, and my jab. Working on my movement. It really hampered that aspect of my boxing quite a bit. Now I just have to be careful with it, making sure I wrap up real well for every training and sparring session. I just need to take more time to take care of it.
Is there anything technique-wise you've changed up because of it? The way you throw hammer fists or anything to make sure you don't re-injure it? Was there anything you were doing that maybe caused the injury? Or was it just a fluke injury?
Yes, it just happened during the fight. It was from just slamming my hand into a forehead. Pretty much just one of those things. I pretty much just hit it perfectly and there was nothing I could have done about it. It happens in this sport. You're going to have your injuries, and you just have to rehab them and take care of them. My hands have always been fine, always felt good, so I would kind of give them a half-assed wrap, now I make sure to have a real wrap job every time to help cut down on the chances of it happening again, or re-injuring it.
Could you talk about injuring your PCL and MCL during your fight with Carmelo Marrero? Were you aware of the injury and how did it feel?
The first take down it took a little bink. You do it a million times in training camp, but I took him down and tried to pass to side control, and I heard my knee pop. It burned a little bit, but it really didn't hurt all that bad at first. My adrenaline was going full on at that point in the fight. When I got up I could tell something was wrong. It was kind of rolling around so it definitely hindered what I was able to. I just had to do what I had to do, fight through it. Afterward when i got in the locker room it was swelling up pretty bad, about twice the size it should be. It healed nicely so it really doesn't bother me anymore.
How much weight do you usually cut coming into a fight? Are you somewhere around the standard 15 pounds over?
Yea, I really don't lift much during training camp, I just focus on strength and conditioning, but in the time off, that's where I'll really hit the squats and the dead lifts. That's when I tend to put on some weight, get to about 230lbs. Right now, I've been training pretty hard. My official camp starts tomorrow so I'm about 220 right now. When you weigh in you cant really gain that much weight back, so I like to train primarily at the weight I'll fight at.
Please tell me you didn't have to cut weight during your 15 hour flight to Australia for your last fight at UFC 110. I've done that horrible flight, and cutting weight for me is usually spent curled up in the passenger seat while my brother drives to a grappling tournament. I can't even imagine doing it on that flight.
Luckily we got there early enough, about ten days before the fight, that it wasn't much of an issue. I just had to monitor my food intake. Try to avoid the shitty airline food. I've been cutting weight all my life so it wasn't a big deal.
How did you like fighting internationally? Do you prefer fighting closer to home to make it easier for friends and family to see your fight?
Where I fight doesn't really matter all that much to me. I really liked the international experience. Australia was cool because it was the first time the UFC has been down there. When you get down there, there is so much great energy. They've never had anything like a UFC event take place there so the atmosphere is amazing. You walk out and it's the loudest place I've ever been. It was crazy. I love that aspect but obviously there are some drawbacks to fighting so far away from home. I'm pretty young so I don't let the jet lag get to me, that stuff is mostly mental. As for family, both my parents and my grandparents actually came out to Australia to see the fight. My grandparents are getting older and don't really know if they would get another chance to ever go to Australia, so it was a great excuse for them to go. It's always nice to have your family and some good friends around without having to worry about keeping everybody happy.
Tell me about your relationship with your former college ASU teammate, Cain Velasquez. How do you think he matches up with Brock Lesnar?
Originally, he was our heavyweight. CB Dollaway, Aaron Simpson, Cain, and myself, all came into MMA together. He's an absolute beast. Even on the wrestling mat, you get a takedown on him and he'll come at you 100 mph until he gets it back. He's definitely a great guy. He has a certain look that some people seem to take the wrong way, but he's just a fun, goofy guy. A great friend.
I think he matches up very well with Brock. He might be taken down a few times, but his tenacity will be the difference maker. In the fifth round, he's going to look just like he did in the first round. Brock might be able to hang for a little bit, but from the third round on, it's going to be all Cain. He'll stay on the outside and pick him apart with his kickboxing, mixing in some takedowns. Once Lesnar gets tired, Cain will take over.
Back when Lil' Nog was slated to fight Forrest Griffin, someone asked you who you liked in that fight, and you picked Nogueira. What are you going to be able to bring to this fight that gives you a better chance of winning than Forrest did?
I think my wrestling and my ability to scramble. Lil' Nog had some trouble with Jason Brilz primarily because he put a scramble into every position he had. Nogueira would be going for a half guard sweep and Brilz would use his wrestling to create a better position. Nogueira is a very well rounded fighter, but I think the main thing he lacks is a good wrestling base. I think I have him there with my ability to create scrambles. There isn't too much of a gameplan for this fight, just go where it goes. I have some power in my hands so I might be able to take him out that way, or get him on his back, be careful posturing up. I'm at more of an advantage with my wrestling than Forrest certainly would be.
Do you think you have an edge in that fight considering your time learning under Big Nog on 'The Ultimate Fighter?'
I wouldn't say an edge, but it definitely gives me an insight into how good they actually are. Big Nog would tell me to try to work out of his guard or stop a sweep, and I would have a hard time doing it. If anything, it makes me respect his skills even more. I'm not overlooking anything in this fight. It just makes me work harder knowing what they can do.
Do you think his controversial win over Jason Brilz puts more pressure on him in this fight?
Not really. He's going to come out hard every fight. There's always pressure on all of us every time we fight. I was talking to Dana White and he told me Lil' Nog is a little embarrassed about it, so they want to come out and make a statement. I'm expecting the best Noguerria, and I'm training for it. Everybody has bad fights, but he's a great fighter and I'm just honored to get the chance to fight someone like him.
How was sparring with Anderson Silva on the show?
Nogueira told him to go hard on a couple of us. After sparring with some of the other guys, I felt fine, and then you step in there with Anderson and you feel like you're learning all over again. He moves so well, so fluidly. He comes from everywhere with his hands, his knees, his kicks. Switching up from southpaw to orthodox likes it's nothing. He's on a different level. I never really got the chance to wrestle or grapple with him but I did some drills with him, and he's definitely stronger than you think. He's much bigger than he looks, and he was about as heavy as I was when we were filming the show.
Not that you're looking past Nogueira, but are there certain guys out there you would like to fight?
After I started training with some of the best in the world and fighting in the UFC, I started really wanting fights with guys I used to idolize and watch on TV. Guys like Tito Ortiz and Randy Couture. Both are in my weight class, and just for my own personal satisfaction I'd love to say I've fought them and be able to look back and be a part of their legacy. I would love to fight either of those guys before they retire. Purely out of respect and admiration.
What is your approach to cardio? Do you like more functional conditioning? Roadwork? Spinning?
We have something we started implementing for the last fight, more so with this upcoming one with Brian Davis. It's basically a room with three treadmills and we go for an hour and a half. It's honestly the toughest conditioning I've been through, and that's saying a lot considering my years of wrestling. This takes the cake. It's the same workout they put the US Olympic team through. Add in some free weights, some pull ups, bear crawls, you're good to go. We do that twice a week, along with a few long runs.
What advice would you give to someone trying improve their basic level of fitness? What's something anyone could do given some basic equipment?
I'm really into circuit training. You don't have to do each station for very long. Implementing some free weights, maybe a treadmill if you're at a gym, you can put together your own little circuit. Go hard for five minutes, take a minute break. Maybe do a one minute hard run on the treadmill, right into some pull ups. It'll burn fat, add some muscle. I've been training like that and I love it. Just keep moving. Don't put a ton of weight on the bar, put up some reps, do some curls, and be done. Keep adding new things to shock your system. You need to keep your body constantly learning, keep it on its toes.
Check out the workout Ryan was talking about:
The Blackshirt Way (via TheGrrila)