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Ryan Bader: With Jon Jones vacating, Bellator 244 could determine best light heavyweight

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UNCASVILLE, Conn. – With Jon Jones and Daniel Cormier officially out of the light heavyweight picture, could the Bellator 244 main event determine the world’s best 205-pound fighter?

One half of that headliner, dual champion Ryan Bader, thinks the argument certainly can be made. Bader, the Bellator heavyweight and light heavyweight champion, takes on surging Russian fighter Vadim Nemkov in a 205-pound title fight Friday at Mohegan Sun Arena.

“Arguably, right now you can say the winner of this fight is one of the best heavyweights right now that’s out there,” Bader told MMA Junkie on Wednesday. “DC retired and had a great career. He was always up there. Then, obviously, Jon Jones was one of the greatest of all time. I think that the whole division was in his shadow. Him moving up definitely opens it up.

“With my accomplishments, it’s not like I haven’t been there. I was a top-five guy consistently in there. I’ve grown as a fighter since I came over here – tremendously. Yeah, you can argue the winner of this fight is the best light heavyweight right now.”

Bader had his crack at Jones before the longtime UFC light heavyweight champion held the promotion’s title around his waist. At UFC 126 in January 2011, Jones earned a title shot by submitting Bader late in the second round.

As for Cormier, he too has history with Bader, though the two fighters never competed against one another inside the cage. They were booked to fight at UFC Fight Night 68 in 2015 after a news conference run-in. However, Cormier was pulled from the fight to take on Anthony Johnson for the vacant title at UFC 187.

Bader would’ve liked to fight Cormier, but more so wishes he could have the opportunity now. Bader voiced his faith in his improvement since making the jump from the UFC to Bellator in early 2017.

“You look at fights you wish you woulda, shoulda, coulda,” Bader said. “That was a big fight. I was in training camp for it, and he got pulled out to fight for the title. I’d like to have that fight now where I am in my career now – how I am mentally (and) physically rather than back then. I’m a totally different fighter, a complete fighter, so now would be the time.”

Bellator 244 takes place Friday at Mohegan Sun Arena. The main card simulcasts on Paramount and DAZN following prelims on MMA Junkie.

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Original Article posted mmajunkie.usatoday.com/2020/08/bellator-244-ryan-bader-best-light-heavyweight-after-jon-jones-vacated-ufc-title/ by Nolan King

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