Then it all changed for him, seemingly in an instant. Bader lost his first career match to future light heavyweight champion Jon Jones. He seemed to struggle with Jones’ athleticism and surprising strength that overpowered Bader, something he had never had to worry about before.
Losing to Jones, while not necessarily excusable for Bader, it was certainly understandable. Jones is a top pound-for-pound fighter, and has potential that has rarely been seen since the beginnings of mixed martial arts.
But as Bader puts it, the organization is always seen in the light of “what have you done for me lately”.
Unfortunately for Bader, “lately” still stands as a sour note in his career, as he went on to lose to Tito Ortiz at UFC 132 in July. A heavy underdog going into the fight, Ortiz surprised many, Bader most importantly, by knocking down the All-American wrestler and choking him out in the first round.
“I took that loss to Tito very hard,” said Bader. “It happens in this organization, and all I can do is learn what I did wrong, which I have.”
That brings us to this Saturday at UFC 139, where Bader will have the opportunity to show what he learned, as he takes on Jason Brilz, who is also on a two fight loss streak.
“I am definitely fired up about this matchup,” said Bader. “Jason is a tough opponent who is a strong wrestler with heavy hands. Plus he pushes the pace, which I like.”
“I am very confident about this fight. I switched some things up with my camp, as I brought in a new boxing coach and a new head coach. I had to re-evaluate things following my loss to Tito.”
Now Bader says he is in the best shape has ever been in. That can be accredited to his continuing work with the gym he helped create, Power MMA, with fellow Arizona State wrestlers CB Dolloway and Aaron Simpson. Plus he feels he is not overtraining, something he feels he was doing in his previous fights.
“Getting to train with guys like CB and Aaron, along with big guys above 220 to train for Brilz has been great,” Bader said. “I get to train for Jason and his size plus his wrestling pedigree. This is the best camp I have ever had.”
“Regarding those fights against Jon Jones and Tito Ortiz, the fact is I was overtraining before those fights. That is one of the things I learned I was doing wrong. I feel much more prepared for this fight.”
When asked if there is something else he would like to change, other than the current losing streak, Bader mentioned the running nickname he has been given by many fans.
“I get told to use ‘Master’ as my nickname at least every other day,” said Baider. “Getting that a couple of times a week can get annoying. Perhaps it is time for something new.”
When choosing between one aspect to change, chances are Bader can live with the fan-desired nickname, as it not only means he has returned to the win column, but continues to make his own name in the organization.