Ryan Bader is just excited to get in the cage again. After a devastating loss to Jon Jones at UFC 126 in February, Bader will look to erase those painful memories when he meets Tito Ortiz at UFC 132 on July 2.
The opportunity to face Ortiz has Bader absolutely giddy. The chance to defeat a legend of Ortiz's stature coupled with the opportunity to get back to his winning ways has the former NCAA All-American counting down the days until he straps on those gloves again.
While Ortiz undoubtedly has experience on his side, Bader doesn't feel as if that will be enough for "The Huntington Beach Bad Boy." Bader is coming into this fight supremely confident.
"Yeah, I'm gonna beat him," Bader told The MMA Fight Corner presented by FiveKnuckles.com. "I gotta be confident. I definitely have all the tools to beat him. I'm definitely fired up since my last fight. I'm a competitor and I've always been. Me losing, it hurts me. I just have that fire to come back and totally erase that fight. Come back and have a great performance."
"I grew up watching Tito and I'm not gonna sit here and talk bad about him because he helped put the sport where it is today. But I am gonna go out there and I'm gonna put it on him. He's lost a lot of fights but he still has that whole name and that whole Tito aura. I wanted to fight a guy like Couture or Liddell or a Tito. Those guys that pioneered the sport."
Bader reached this point at the end of a long and hard road. After starting his career 7-0 against relative nobodies on the local circuit, the former Arizona State wrestler was invited to the eighth season of The Ultimate Fighter reality show. On the show he was coached up by heavyweight legend Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, and with his combination of punching power and wrestling, was able to win the show.
But his path to success began long before those days he spent stuck in a house full of men, cut off from the rest of the world. Bader attributes his success in the mixed martial arts industry to his days on the wrestling mats at Arizona State University.
After a decorated high school career which included two state titles, Bader took his wrestling talents to Arizona State University. There he teamed up and trained with fellow wrestlers Cain Velasquez and C.B. Dollaway. Aaron Simpson, a former wrestler at ASU himself, was also on board as a coach.
The names Velasquez, Dollaway and Simpson may all sound familiar because they are all also fighting under the UFC banner. Four wrestling standouts. Four future UFC fighters. Bader says it's not a coincidence.
"We were all good friends and we kind of all have the same mentality," Bader said. "We were all training partners. Me and C.B. and Aaron and Cain, we wrestled each other day in and day out, year after year in the wrestling room. We really got each other better. We're all highly competitive. There were times when we hated each other in the room but we were friends through the whole time outside."
Bader, Dollaway and Simpson would later go on to found Power MMA and Fitness out in Arizona. Velasquez ventured over to the American Kickboxing Academy in San Jose, California. The four remain close friends and they plan to reunite for Velasquez's wedding later this...