What is the value of experience in fight sport? Fighters likely adopt different perspectives, but In general, it's comfort and ease with the process. With experience there's familiarity with the routine, an understanding of responsibility and one's own ability to meet it, a cognizance of limits, stresses or potential pitfalls and an awareness of how to see the journey to it's successful completion.
The problem is experience at the highest level doesn't come easy.
UFC light heavyweight contender Ryan Bader found that out when he fought now UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones. Bader professed excitement and eagerness at the opportunity to face the UFC's rising golden child only to realize he'd not only never fought someone of Jones' caliber, but he'd never done it on a stage that elevated. The cameras, the media, the fans and the moment eventually caught up with him.
To put it mildly, UFC 126 was a learning experience and opportunity for growth for Bader.
That's why headed into this weekend's bout with Tito Ortiz at UFC 132, Bader is fully respectful of Ortiz's experience. While there's no argument Ortiz is not the threat he once was and perhaps doesn't belong at this level of professional MMA anymore, there's little reason to disregard his experience. Ortiz faces enormous pressure and unyielding questions about his future, but given his nearly unmatched experience in important bouts in key moments in UFC or MMA history, he's also uniquely situated to handle the moment.
In this exclusive interview with Bader from MMA Nation on 106.7 The Fan, the season eight 'The Ultimate Fighter' winner opens up about the loss to Jones, touts the experience of Ortiz and positions this fight as proof there's a new Ryan Bader everyone must get to know.
Full audio and transcription below:
Luke Thomas: Ryan, how are you sir?
Ryan Bader: Good, how are you doing?
Luke Thomas: Good. Ryan, I'm sure you've been following the news although I know you're busy preparing for your fight this weekend. Tell me, have you been following this Nate Marquardt situation and what is your view on Testosterone Replacement Therapy? Is it legitimate medical care or is it end around previous steroid use?
Ryan Bader: You know, I don't know too much about his situation and I'm sure we only got a quarter or half of it so it's really none of my business, you know? And I don't like to touch on people's personal issues or what's going on. Obviously it was enough to piss Dana off and he got fired so you don't want to play around with that at all if that's what's gonna happen.
Luke Thomas: Independent of Nate Marquardt, let's move him aside, is this a practice that you think is problematic in MMA? How do you feel about it?
Ryan Bader: No, I don't think so. If it starts popping up more and more than yes but we've seen a couple of it lately but I know the guys and I don't think it's problematic. But you never know. You never know what's going on. It's hard to say without really being in it.
Luke Thomas: Let me ask you, you're fighting Tito Ortiz this weekend, who is a legend in Mixed Martial Arts, I know you recognized that. Everyone recognizes that. He's at the tail end of his career and this is gonna sound kinda crazy since I know you're not going to fight any less hard but you could potentially retire this guy. Is there any remorse in that?
Ryan Bader: I understand the question and not really. I have a job to do. If it results in him being forced to retire or getting kicked out or whatever, it sucks. I grew up watching Tito, I respect him a lot for what he's done for the sport, and he's a competitor and I'm gonna fight my butt off in there and train to do that. But with all the outcomes and repercussions if he loses, I'm not thinking about that. I'm thinking that I'm just fighting another opponent across the octagon and I gotta go in there and do my job and win by pretty much any means necessary. I'm not going to take it easier on him. I'm gonna fight hard. Tito's gonna come out to beat me. I'm not taking this fight lightly at all so whatever happens afterwards happens but I have a job to do.
Luke Thomas: Characterize for me Tito Ortiz's strengths as you see them to be today.
Ryan Bader: One thing is just experience. He's been in there and he's been in there with the greats of MMA and he's tough. He's hard to stop. He's only been stopped by Chuck Liddell by TKO. He obviously has great ground and pound, he's good on top with his elbows, he can cut you open at any time. He's decent in stand up. He's very tight and has a great chin and he's got good wrestling. We haven't seen his wrestling too much like it was back in the day but he still has that explosiveness and he's strong and he usually has good cardio. That's what I'm looking out for and my training camp we made sure that we trained for that and we prepared for that.
Luke Thomas: In terms of MMA wrestling, not so much your collegiate pedigree or his, but in terms of MMA wrestling would you say or disagree that his wrestling is competitive with yours? Would you agree or disagree?
Ryan Bader: Yeah, it's competitive for sure. I do feel that I have the advantage to take him down more easily especially. I've been working on setting them up and disguising my takedowns a little better. But absolutely. He's strong and anytime anyone's in the clinch with him, he has great knees and elbows. He's great at mixing it up a little bit so I believe that it will be very competitive in that department.
Luke Thomas: Ryan, I know you're probably tired of talking about it but I don't get a lot of chances to speak to you so I have to ask you while I can. When you fought Jon Jones, I'm sure it was a great learning experience, any time you fight a guy of that caliber at that stage, how can it not be? And you have a great opportunity here but I gotta know, why did you pull half guard on him? That's been something I've been wracking my brain about. Far be it from me to critique, I'm just kind of curious...
Ryan Bader: Ah yeah, it was actually kind of a takedown. You kind of throw him by and catch a leg with your inside leg and you're in a single position. I did it in college wrestling a lot. But when I threw him over, he's so long, so I didn't get the reaction from his body that I was expecting. So when I threw it over, I pretty much fell to my back so it just went into half guard from there but no, I wasn't trying to pull that at all. I was trying to get a single there, kind of a throw by single, but didn't end up how I thought it would be.
Luke Thomas: Oh so that was kind of a sacrifice throw that you couldn't execute right?
Ryan Bader: Yeah, pretty much. Usually you come out at least to the side where you're in the scramble position. I do it in practice all the time and it works. But like I was saying, him being taller, I was up in his armpit and I didn't get that throw by that I was expecting I pretty much just went right to my back.
Luke Thomas: What was the biggest learning experience from that? What the biggest for you? Two weeks back into training thinking about the fight, what was the biggest takeaway for you from that bout?
Ryan Bader: You know, it was a great experience. It was a big fight with a lot of media and talk about it and it was good to go through that and have that experience. I think I'm a lot better for it. A week afterwards I wasn't myself because I felt like I didn't fight to my potential. If I went out there and I got beat fighting to what I believe is my potential then so be it, but I felt like I didn't show up. I've been through enough competition in amateur wrestling my whole life to know that sometimes you have off nights and you don't perform and chalk it up to that and move on. I used it for motivation in this training camp. Whenever I was tired, I thought back on that loss and how I never want to feel that way ever again. It pushed me to do more, do more rounds or whatever it was. I want to use that as motivation and turn around for the better.
Luke Thomas: Last question about Jones and then we'll get back to your fight. Do you think that Rampage stands a legitimate chance? Obviously he's a talented guy but the way Jones dismantled Shogun, do you think Rampage stands a legitimate shot at UFC 135?
Ryan Bader: Yeah I do, I think everybody does in the fight, especially him more so because he has really heavy hands and is really good at staying in the pocket and ducking and weaving and coming back with some strong punches. That definitely is something that he possesses is that one punch knockout power. Jones is a freak as far as his length. It's hard to even get anything going because he stays on the outside and uses that 84 inch reach. He may not hit as hard but his knees and his kicks and his punches together and that length is just hard to deal with.
Luke Thomas: You have your own training facility now with CB Dolloway and Aaron Simpson. We've seen the video of it, it looks like an incredible facility, so congratulations on that. I'm kind of curious, I've asked other people about it, "how does your own facility help you?" and they always say "well, training's better. Training's better." Tell me, in what way specifically, why is training better? You were with one of the elite camps before, why is the training better in a meaningful way at your new place versus your old place?
Ryan Bader: Well our old place, we've been to a lot of places. But our old old place where we originally started from, Arizona Combat Sports, we have all the guys we were training with there but a whole lot more. What's better about the place we have now, at Arizona Combat Sports we had a 13 foot cage with wrestling mats as the ground, just as far as facility wise. Here we have a 26 foot cage, an octagon replicating the UFC octagon, it has the canvas on it. That's huge and you don't really think about it too much until you get in there and train and spar in it everyday. It's a HUGE difference. We have more bag and more mats and do everything more at once in one facility. We broke down the training. We have a real Muay Thai coach, a real boxing coach, two great jiu jitsu guys, instead of having one coach for everything that's good at everything but not great at one thing. We have the ability to bring in other fighters. Robbie Lawler is part of our camp now. Tom Lawlor comes by. A bunch of people. Kyle Kingsbury, they all come by and train. It's nice having more people with different looks. We're open to that whereas they wouldn't be so open to people coming in in the past.
Luke Thomas: Two super quick question, I know you have to get outta here. In the main event, who do you like: Cruz or Faber?
Ryan Bader: That's a tough one. Faber beat him before but I'm gonna go with Cruz. He's been looking great and he's just so elusive and I think he's gonna have too much movement for him. He's just non-stop so I'm gonna go with Cruz.
Luke Thomas: Lastly, Bubba Jenkins, ASU Alum, just won the National Title at 157 pounds. I know he's over at ATT but I'm sure you're paying attention to him. Does he have the right kind of wrestling skill set to go far in MMA?
Ryan Bader: Yeah, I believe so. He's extremely athletic and explosive and he's got that mindset. He's been the champion and he has the mindset that he wants to be the champion and he's used to being the best. He's at a great place and he's gonna work until he is up there. I believe he's gonna have a really bright career.