(Light heavyweight contender Ryan 'Darth' Bader faces former UFC light heavyweight champion Lyoto Machida this Saturday at the Staples Center, L.A., live on FOX. This is part four of an exclusive four-part series from Bader.)
I'm pumped every time I step inside that Octagon and fight, but this one on Saturday night is extra special for a number of reasons. It means a great deal to be co-main event on a major FOX card. As far as showcases go, you really can't beat it.
Plus we had the news this week that, if I win impressively, I could get a world title shot next. The stakes couldn’t be any higher for me.
A ton of people will be watching my fight with Lyoto Machida, from all sorts of demographics and backgrounds, and this just opens you and your skills up to a whole new audience. That excites me a great deal.
It's also pretty exciting to be going up against somebody as respected and as experienced as Machida.
I get asked about what being ‘focused’ really means. I guess it is different for everyone but for me, it is about only thinking towards the fight. Sunday morning, next week, next month, the next fight – none of it exists for me. Only Saturday night.
I also try not to think about what a win over someone like Machida can do for career, but I'd be lying if I said I hadn't had those thoughts. This is a huge fight for me and a win would do big things for my career. After all, if you beat Rampage Jackson and Machida in succession, you are then in the upper echelons of the division. Whether Shogun or Brandon Vera get the title shot rather than me, beating two ex-champs back to back would have me in the top three of the division and in major fights.
As I said in my first blog, last year sucked. Losing to Jon Jones hurt bad but losing to Tito Ortiz really affected me badly. It took a lot of strength, mentally, to pick myself up and beating Rampage gave me the confidence that, yes, I am now ready for the top class.
Every fighter has doubts. If they say they don’t they are lying. But right now I am more confident than ever and you will see that have an affect on my aggression levels this Saturday.
My ultimate goal is to win that UFC light heavyweight title. And I don't care who I have to fight to win it. If I have to go in there with Jon Jones again, so be it. I'm a different fighter than the one who faced him the first time round, and know it would be a different fight. I hold no fear of anybody in the light heavyweight division right now.
If I am honest, a couple of years ago a fight against Lyoto Machida would have been daunting and too much for me, but now I'm ready for it. I'm at that level, and ready for the next one.
Saturday's main event between Shogun Rua and Brandon Vera could also be a potential classic, and one that may even throw up a future opponent for me. Shogun is hungry and determined to get back to where he once was, while Vera is out to prove a point and get to that same place.
They also have vicious striking styles, which could combine to make something really special. Regardless of who wins, I'm definitely looking forward to watching it unfold once my fight with Machida is over. I just hope the winner isn’t as impressive as me on the night!
As far as my own fight, I'm going to put the pressure on Lyoto, with both punches and takedowns, and just take him out of his comfort zone. I won't let him rest for a second. In the end, I believe that kind of pressure, pace and tenacity will win me the fight, either by stoppage or on the cards. I hit hard enough to put him down and end the fight. I can beat the striker with striking and that is, ultimately, my aim on Saturday night..
Follow me on Twitter @RyanBader.
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