Ryan “Darth” Bader announced on The MMA Hour that he has signed with Bellator MMA to end his free agency. Bader (22-5 MMA, 15-5 UFC) does not have a set opponent or date for his debut at this time but hopes to be on the card when Bellator goes to New York’s Madison Square Garden in June.
The Ultimate Fighter season eight winner admittedly lost some key fights to keep him somewhere in the middle of the pack in the UFC light heavyweight (205-pound) division and out of the championship picture. The 33-year-old wrestler had won five straight (all by decision) before being KOed in under 90 seconds by current title challenger, Anthony “Rumble” Johnson.
Bader’s last win came by knockout over Antonio Rogerio Nogueira on November 19, 2016, at UFC Fight Night 100 in the third round of the main event. After fighting out his contract, Bader’s proposed Bellator deal somehow became part of the ongoing UFC anti-trust lawsuit drawing out his free agency until now.
UFC President Dana White said to the media while appearing at the Super Bow earlier this year prior to a Fight Night event in the host city of Houston, “We knew he was going to go to Bellator the entire time. I think Bellator is a good place for Ryan Bader. At this point in his career, I think it’s the right move for him.”
Also in the mix at Bellator is UFC veteran welterweight (170-pound) fighter, Lorenz “The Monsoon” Larkin (18-5, 1 No Contest with 11 wins by KO/TKO.) The 30-year-old contender is 4-1 in the division and had been with the UFC since April of 2013. Prior to that run, Larkin fought for current Bellator President Scott Coker, the leading man of Strikeforce between 2011-12.
“I had a deal on the table [from the UFC], and it just didn’t feel right,” Larkin also said on The MMA Hour.
“My whole reasoning for testing free agency was to see what I was worth and get somebody behind me. I want to feel like an asset to a promotion and I want to feel like the promotion wants to really drive me and really use me. I’ve made this point a lot of times that I’m ready to work. Anything you can use me for, let me know. I’m here. And it just wasn’t happening for me [in the UFC], so I don’t know if it was just the timing or, just, there was no interest in that. But that’s a big thing that I was focused on.”
The details of his debut are also unknown at this time.