Can Bader stake claim among UFC's elite?

Kevin Iole
Yahoo! Sports

Ryan Bader sighs audibly. For probably the 101st time in the past month, he's asked a question bout Jon Jones, the Ultimate Fighting Championship's highly regarded light heavyweight prospect.

Being compared to Jones is no bad thing. Jones is one of the most physically gifted fighters in the world and has quickly moved to the precipice of championship contention. However, it seems some might prefer a coronation rather than making Jones fight his way to the championship.

There has been no such groundswell of public support for Bader, the light heavyweight winner of Season 8 of "The Ultimate Fighter" and the owner of an impressive 11-0 mark. Despite his far less flashy style, the 27-year-old Bader is no less of a prospect than Jones. He'll get a chance to prove that on Saturday in the co-main event of UFC 119, in which he'll meet veteran Antonio Rogerio Nogueira at Conseco Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.

Bader is more of a blue-collar grunt, but he's matched Jones step for step along the way. Jones walked through veteran Brandon Vera in March to cement his status as a rising star. On Saturday, Bader will get his opportunity.

"I get asked about Jon Jones a lot," Bader said. "He's a tough, tough fighter and he's very athletic and exciting. I want to get to the title, and to get there you have to beat the top guys, whether it's [Quinton] 'Rampage' [Jackson], [Lyoto] Machida, Jon Jones, Little Nog [Nogueira], whoever. They're top guys for a reason."

The UFC's plan – write it in pencil, since things in mixed martial arts can change in an instant – is for the Bader-Nogueira winner to fight Jones. So Bader might get his chance at "The Chosen One" soon enough.

And while Jones would likely be a heavy favorite, Bader is hardly deterred. Part of the reason he's gotten to where he has is because of his tenacity. Bader was Nevada's prep football defensive player of the year in 2000, a guy who would hit anything that moved.

When he began his MMA career, Bader was hardly a spit-and-polished fighter. But he was incredibly strong, had great wrestling and, perhaps most of all, had an indomitable spirit. It was impossible to tell Bader he couldn't do something.

Early on, it was his brute strength that set him apart.

"We brought him onto campus on a recruiting trip, and I remember taking all the guys out and playing a soccer game," UFC middleweight Aaron Simpson, a Bader teammate and an assistant coach for the Arizona State wrestling team when Bader was there, told UFC.com. "This 18-year-old kid took his shirt off and I was like, 'Holy crap.' He looked like a grown man."

Power has been the hallmark of Bader's career, from the time he began to wrestle through his rise in the UFC's deep and talented light heavyweight division. There are guys who are technically more proficient. There are guys who are faster and more athletic. None of them, however, are tougher or more tenacious than Bader.

"Ryan Bader is mean," Simpson said.

He's proven that in fight after fight. But he's also proven that it's not right to consider him a one-dimensional wrestler anymore. He's coming off back-to-back wins over jiu-jitsu black belt Eric Schafer and veteran Keith Jardine, and doesn't have the holes in his game which were so apparent earlier.

He's relentlessly pushed himself in the gym and has gotten the shot at Nogueira and the opportunity to move within sight of a title shot by going out and taking care of his business.

"In wrestling, you're just so ingrained into working hard and going through the grind of drilling, every day and every day," Bader said. "You go from September-October through March and if you're one of the guys at a national level, you go all year. And it's just, 'Push, push, push.' Wrestlers develop a mentality that I think they'll do anything to get better, and that's kind of how I've been. I've wanted to get into the cage and think I haven't done enough to prepare for the fight."

He has much respect for Nogueira, a highly regarded veteran who starred in the PRIDE Fighting Championship. Bader was the pet project of Nogueira's twin brother, Antonio Rodrigo, on TUF 8. Bader said Antonio Rodrigo helped him immensely to improve.

"One of the good things about being on the show is the incredible opportunity to learn from some of the best fighters in the world," Bader said. "You'd be a fool not to take advantage of that."

Saturday will, in a way, be like graduation day for Bader. If he can get past the brother of his one-time coach, he'll be near the light heavyweight summit. The path to the championship will be clear. And he'll have advanced from prospect to legitimate contender.

If Bader gets past Rogerio Nogueira, he'll move alongside Jones as the division's most promising contender. Let the comparisons begin.

  • Why Joey Bosa better hope the Chargers' offer still stands

    On Wednesday, Shutdown Corner’s Frank Schwab did a great job of updating the Joey Bosa situation — namely how the San Diego Chargers made this standoff public and ugly. Oh, sure, these are the Chargers we’re talking about, and calling them a well-run organization might not be able to be done with a straight face. Perhaps the Chargers, coming off a 4-12 nightmare of a season, could have found better ways to get this thing done — especially in an era where the draft-pick holdout has gone the way of the Edsel.

    Shutdown Corner
  • Nick Diaz Reportedly Jumped by 4 Men, Involved in Las Vegas Nightclub Incident

    UFC star Nick Diaz was reportedly attacked by four assailants outside a Las Vegas nightclub in the early hours of Wednesday morning. "I didn't start it," Diaz told TMZ. "They didn't know who I was." Per ESPN's Brett Okamoto, Diaz's role in the altercation has been cleared up by the club: Diaz said he would not be pursuing prosecution for his attackers and told TMZ that the assailants "got the worst of it." According to TMZ, Diaz did attempt to defend himself, although he was struck in the head. The altercation is said to have turned into a melee that spilled into the Bellagio casino and culminated in the attackers "swinging chairs and brawling with club and casino staffers" before being escorted

    Bleacher Report
  • NFL players fed up with Roger Goodell, strike threat real

    At least one team's player rep went on record this week warning NFL players to begin preparing for a strike - even though the league's current Collective Bargaining Agreement does not expire for nearly five years. Can there be a clearer vote of no confidence in the leadership of commissioner Roger Goodell? Goodell has spent the last few years lurching from one crisis to another, from Ray Rice to Adrian Peterson, from steroids to supplements, from under-inflated footballs to over-inflated egos, and still, too often, we do not know what the penalty is for a particular act, or even if there is one, until after the fact. There have been ample signs that the leadership of the NFL Players Association is at odds, to put it mildly, with Goodell over his handling of player discipline.

    UPI
  • Pat Summitt's will leaves 'personal property' to Tyler Summitt

    Pat Summitt’s last will and testament didn’t spread the property of the Tennessee women’s basketball coaching legend. Summitt gave all of her "tangible personal property" to her only son, Tyler. A copy of the will was obtained by the News Sentinel, and it specified that Summitt’s property included "automobiles, clothing, jewelry and other articles of personal use or ornament." Summitt’s home off Alcoa Highway in Blount County was put up for sale earlier this summer. She lived at Sherrill Hill Senior Living in Knoxville from late January until her death on June 28 after a five-year battle with early onset Alzheimer’s disease. The will is dated July 18, 2013. Summitt’s brother, Tommy Head, was

    The Tennessean
  • Aly Raisman on How the Final Five Reacted to Gabby Douglas Getting Bullied

    During the Olympic games, Final Five member Gabby Douglas watched herself be torn apart by internet trolls who dubbed her “Crabby Gabby” for not appearing supportive enough of her teammates during the all-around team competition (Douglas reportedly wasn’t as smiley as her other teammates in the stands) or patriotic enough during the medal ceremony (Douglas did not have her hand on her heart). Now, with the games behind them, Final Five team captain Aly Raisman opened up to E! News about what she, Simone Biles, Laurie Hernandez, and Madison Kocian were doing behind the scenes to help their teammate.

    Elle
  • Billy Butler regrets role in clubhouse scuffle that gave him concussion

    A weird month for the Oakland A’s got even weirder last Friday in Chicago when Billy Butler and Danny Valencia were involved in a clubhouse scuffle over the latter’s cleat endorsement deal. The physical altercation resulted in Billy Butler sustaining a concussion, which landed him on MLB’s seven-day concussion list earlier this week. Speaking for the first time since the incident on Wednesday, Butler said he’s progressing well and hopes to return as soon as he possibly can. “First off, I want to say to my teammates, I want to apologize for putting them through this because they didn’t deserve this,” Butler said.

    Big League Stew
  • Lane Johnson says he'll sue supplement company over suspension

    Philadelphia Eagles offensive tackle Lane Johnson first complained about the NFLPA’s lack of supplement testing after his positive test triggered a 10-game suspension. Now he says he’ll sue the supplement company that he says sold him the amino acids that led to the positive test. Johnson had $25 million in guaranteed money remaining on his deal, but the positive test meant none of that money is guaranteed anymore due to a clause in his contract.

    Shutdown Corner
  • Gamblers Once Threatened To Kill Jamal Crawford After A Dice Game At Michael Jordan's Restaurant

    Jamal Crawford is one of the nicest people you’ll ever meet, superstar athlete or otherwise. In his fantastic profile of Crawford at The Undefeated, Mike Wise details a particularly troubling incident early his career with the Chicago Bulls. Citing unnamed sources who spoke on condition of anonymity, Wise retells a story about how Crawford (along with Ray Allen) once spent a night at Michael Jordan’s restaurant, One Sixtyblue, shooting craps with professional gamblers.

    UPROXX
  • U.S. Open Pressure Points: No. 1 seed Novak Djokovic and an unexpected turn of events

    A few years ago, Janko Tipsarevic sat across a table at the Miami Masters and said one of the wisest things this reporter has ever heard. Tipsarevic, fellow countryman and good friend of Serbia’s Novak Djokovic, said that his primary goal in most matches was to win his first three or four service games. “Once it gets to be four-all, or 4-5, the pressure can get to anybody,” Tipsarevic said. “Anybody can choke. Even the great players because everybody is human.” The relevant point as the U.S. Open approaches is that even iconic players can fall victim to pressure. That brings us to Serena Williams and Novak Djokovic, the top singles seeds at the final Grand Slam of the year, who will certainly

    Tennis.com
  • National TV talk show blasts Eagles for trading up to draft Carson Wentz

    Carson Wentz came to Eagles with a lot of fanfare and expectations. Fans have taken to Wentz already as shown by how many No.11 jerseys are on the backs of people walking around Philadelphia. The Eagles got the No.2 pick (Carson Wentz) and a 2017 4th-round pick in exchange for No.8 pick (Jack Conklin), a 3rd-round pick (Daryl Worley) a 4th-round pick (Connor Cook) along with a 2017 first round pick and a 2018 2nd-round pick. Max Kellerman is a newcomer to the ESPN show, “First Take.” He voiced his displeasure towards the Eagles trade when he was on the show with Stephen A. Smith and Damien Woody. “Obviously, at the time they made the trade, they made a mistake,” Kellerman said. “They gave up

    Eagles Wire
  • What it’s like to face the ‘biggest serve in the history’ of tennis at 163 mph

    A booming, cannon ball-like blast emanates from Sam Groth’s tennis racket nearly every time he serves. If an opponent fails to react before they see the ball, it’s too late. The serve will end up as another easy ace for Groth. Players have been dealing with Groth’s thunderous serve even before the 28-year-old turned pro in 2006. He rode his big serve to the Wimbledon boys’ doubles final in 2005 and in May 2012, Groth cemented his status as the biggest server in the sport when he hit the fastest recorded serve at 163.7 mph during an ATP Challenger match. At 6-feet-4 and weighing nearly 220 pounds, the Australian hardly resembles the prototypical tennis player. But with his powerful build and unique

    Washington Post
  • How Alabama football is saving unemployed coach Charlie Weis

    Former Notre Dame and Kansas coach Charlie Weis has been most notable recently for his buyout checks. But while many would love to cash in multiple millions of dollars without working, spending time away from the sideline can wear on a lifetime football coach like Weis. According to an ESPN feature on Weis, Alabama football has helped him get his fix. His son, Charlie Jr., was hired by Nick Saban as an offensive analyst last spring. Supporting the Tide has been a way for Weis to experience football as a fan in the stands for the first time in four decades. According to Weis, Alabama football "got him through." via ESPN: Weis watched games from the stands for the first time in more than 40 years.

    CBS Sports
  • Jim Boeheim’s Melo comments are evidence of why athletes hate the media

    Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim has a habit of creating headlines that are not all that flattering, to himself or to the people that he’s commenting on, which is why it wasn’t much of a surprise that a quote he gave to Mike Waters of the Syracuse Post-Standard has been making the rounds this week. The quote in question? “He’s unlikely to win an NBA title,” Boeheim said of his former star and now three-time Olympic champion Carmelo Anthony. “He’s never been on a team that even had a remote chance of winning an NBA title.” That sounds bad, doesn’t it? But … I mean, he’s right, isn’t he? Melo is 32 years old and title-less. He’s been to the conference finals once and gotten out of the first round

    CollegeBasketballTalk
  • Katie Ledecky explains why she is passing up an estimated $5 million per year in endorsements

    What is Katie Ledecky’s net worth? The swimmer could have a whole lot more — about $5 million per year in endorsements. Katie Ledecky proved to be one of the biggest stars of the 2016 Rio Olympics with her dominance in the pool.

    Business Insider
  • DeAngelo Williams spits truth about Steelers offensive line and Roethlisberger

    If you are ever in search of a sound byte about the Pittsburgh Steelers, all you have to do is ask running back DeAngelo Williams and he shall provide. When Williams went on ESPN First Take he had no qualms about gushing about his offensive line and quarterback. It’s great to see Williams give props to his offensive line like that. There’s no doubt this is a supremely talented group and grossly underrated by the rest of the NFL. You have to appreciate a running back who understands how important his offensive line is to his success. As far as Ben Roethlisberger goes, his pedigree speaks for itself, but as Williams said, the options having Roethlisberger under center provides is brutal for opposing

    Steelers Wire
  • This tomahawk dunk is vicious and disrespectful

    The Olympics just ended and the start of the NBA season is still months away. This stretch is typically a dark, lonely time of the year for basketball having highlight withdrawals. Fortunately, high schooler Jordyn Adams filled the void and gifted us a dunk that we could watch on repeat until the NBA season tips. Prepare yourself, this posterization isn't for the faint of heart: Sweet, fancy Moses. Adams loaded that tomahawk dunk up and floated in the air for what seems like minutes. All just setting the stage for the poor defender in a red sweatshirt to come up on the very wrong end of this highlight. At this point it seems like things are going south, but maybe not all was lost for young Mr.

    SB Nation
  • Yoenis Cespedes says he won't opt out of Mets contract

    The New York Mets somehow finding a way to bring back outfielder Yoenis Cespedes this past winter was one of the biggest stories of the offseason. After singlehandedly taking the Mets to the playoffs with a spectacular second half, it was assumed Cespedes’ price range on the market would exceed what the Mets were willing to pay. In order to bring back Cespedes, the Mets needed to get creative with their deal.

    Big League Stew
  • Syracuse Men's Soccer Team Pulls Off Viral Stunt

    The players successfully headed a soccer ball to all 25 teammates in the locker room without letting it touch the ground. All: Good morning, America. That was Syracuse university men's soccer team. Heads up, people. You won't believe the stupt they're

    ABC News Videos
  • Ronda Rousey will not return at UFC 205 in New York

    If Ronda Rousey is going to return to the UFC in the future, it certainly won’t be at the fighting promotions highly anticipated debut in New York City. UFC president Dana White appeared on the “UFC Unfiltered” podcast to state that the former women’s bantamweight champion would not be fighting at UFC 205 on Nov. 12. “She’s definitely not fighting in New York,” White said.

    Cagewriter
  • Pete Sampras: This guy may be next great US tennis player

    Everyone’s waiting for the next great American men’s tennis player to emerge, even Pete Sampras. And Pistol Pete has the guy in mind — 18-year-old, slingshot-serving, recently married Taylor Fritz. Sampras endorsed Fritz as having the best shot of the current crop, which also includes 18-year-old Frances Tiafoe. Last summer, when Sampras played an exhibition in Mexico and Fritz competed in a low-level tournament, they hit for 45 minutes and had a nice chat. They both live in Southern California. “Taylor’s got a good future,’’ Sampras told The Post this week while promoting an American Express on-site experience at next week’s U.S. Open. “It’s a cycle and we’re not quite what we used to be in

    New York Post
  • Best Player in Europe: Cristiano Ronaldo beats Bale, Griezmann to win award

    Cristiano Ronaldo was named the Best Player in Europe by UEFA on Thursday in Monaco, following the group stage draw for the UEFA Champions League. Ronaldo, 31, beat other finalists teammate and Welsh international Gareth Bale and France and Atletico Madrid striker Antoine Griezmann to the award for the 2015-16 season. Barcelona duo Lionel Messi came fourth and Luis Suarez finished in fifth. The Portuguese striker scored 51 goals in 48 games for Real Madrid last season and led Portugal to its first-ever major title as a nation, winning the EURO 2016 trophy. Ronaldo said on stage that he was “living his dream” by playing football as he won the award for a second time in his career, the list title

    ProSoccerTalk
  • Zach Britton allowed an earned run for the first time since April 30

    Orioles closer Zach Britton had appeared in a major league record 43 consecutive games without allowing an earned run, spanning May 5 to August 22. That streak came to an end on Wednesday evening against the Nationals. The Orioles entered the bottom of the ninth inning holding a 10-3 lead, but reliever Parker Bridwell immediately found himself in hot water. He yielded back-to-back singles to Danny Espinosa and Clint Robinson. He was able to strike out Trea Turner, but walked Jayson Werth to load the bases. Daniel Murphy then crushed his first career grand slam to make it a 10-7 game. That prompted manager Buck Showalter to bring in Britton. Britton, too, was knocked around. He served up a single

    HardballTalk
  • Gentleman Bryce Harper assists Katie Ledecky with Olympic medals

    Olympic swimmer Katie Ledecky proved she’s more than a one-sport star on Wednesday night at Nationals Park. Ledecky, who won four gold medals and one silver at the Rio Olympics, fired a perfect strike for the ceremonial first pitch before Washington’s game against the rival Baltimore Orioles. Removes all her medals 1st and hands them 1 at a time to Bryce Harper.

    Big League Stew
  • Maryland names starting QB, adds UNC transfer QB Caleb Henderson

    There were a couple of developments on the quarterback front for Maryland Wednesday morning. The one with the most immediate impact was the announcement that Perry Hills has been named the Terps’ starter at the position.  Hills, a senior, had been involved in an offseason-long competition with fellow senior Caleb Rowe for the starting job. Hills started eight games last season and ran for 535 yards, the fourth-most by a quarterback in the program’s history.  He also tossed 13 interceptions; in fact, Hills and Rowe, who started the other four games, combined to toss a staggering 28 interceptions. Of the 114 quarterbacks in passing efficiency listed on the NCAA’s stats website, Hills was 109th.

    NBC Sports: CollegeFootballTalk
  • Ryan Lochte Teammate James Feigen Apologizes, Details Rio Gas Station Gaffe & Brazilian Authorities’ Big Fine Demands

    James Feigen has become the third U.S. swimmer involved in the now infamous Rio gas station incident to give a detailed account of the events that cast a shadow on the American athletes’ performance at the Olympic games. Following Gunnar Bentz’s written statement and Ryan Lochte’s apology and TV interview, Feigen on Tuesday issued a statement through his attorneys, Austin, TX-based Mark Hull and Daniel Wannamaker. In the missive, he chronicles a sequence of events in line with Bentz’s and Lochte’s post-Olympics accounts — an early morning taxi after an all-night party, a stop at a gas station, locked bathroom, urination in the grass, Lochte knocking down a poster, guards forcing them out of the

    Deadline Hollywood