Bellator MMA

Bellator's Ryan Bader looks to join ranks of two-division champions against ...

Bader, who moved on to the rival Bellator MMA promotion, got his title shot and now can match Cormier as a two-division champion by beating mixed martial arts legend Fedor Emelianenko on Saturday night at the Forum in the heavyweight grand prix finale.

That the exposure has been gained humbly — in performances that have revealed the essence of Bader’s intense devotion to fight preparation — is the most rewarding part for the former three-time Pac-10 Conference wrestling champion from Arizona State.

Not boasting, Bader said, left him obscured in the UFC rankings as he struggled with the conflict of incorporating smack talk when the respectful tenets of wrestling and other combat disciplines discourage such behavior.

“People don’t see the hard work that’s put in, waking up at 5 a.m. with snow on the ground in the Midwest and you’ve got five pounds to cut … there’s not a ton of fanfare in that.

Emelianenko, a Russian who went unbeaten for 27 fights until a 2010 loss and has defeated former UFC champion Frank Mir and two-division title challenger Chael Sonnen in the grand prix, praised Bader as a “smart, thinking” fighter.

Victory will place Bader on what he views as equal footing with Cormier, who last month vacated his light-heavyweight belt to focus on a final heavyweight fight.

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