photo: Eric Coleman/

Fighters battle through adversity in the gym and during their whole careers.  The fight for a living, so fighting is in their personality, but when Bryan Baker was diagnosed with chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML) he knew he had a whole new fight on his hands.

“For anyone who doesn’t know my story, it was a bumpy road,” Baker admitted to Joe Rizzo on Rear Naked Choke Radio on the MMA DieHards Radio Network.  “Leukemia or injuries or whatever it takes will not stop me as who I am as a fighter within myself.”

After conquering the debilitating disease, Baker is feeling like a new man.

“I feel great,” said Baker.  “It’s a new life at this point in my career to show how strong and how powerful I can become, not having to battle demons and I can totally concentrate.  I’m excited to show that my life inside of me shines so much brighter than anything stopping me on the outside.  I’m going to show greatness of who I am and that’s what it’s done for me; it shows how much of a fighter I am from the inside. “

Baker realizes other people go through similar setbacks in life all the time, and the Bellator middleweight lends a hand for those who need it.  The illness was depressing at times, but in light of all of it Baker now finds himself in scenarios he could have never thought would happen.

“It’s taken me into areas I could have never imagined,” said Baker.  “From all different angles, whether it be telephone or emails or Facebook.  My doctor was talking with this patient who had testicular cancer and he heard my story, and he’s a fighter as well.  We connected with him and it’s been crazy how much of an inspiration shined through.  I want to continue that.  It’s a blessing that I have the responsibility to show people that no matter what your body may endure or trials you go through in life, you’re able to correct it to the fullest.  Its crazy that I can affect people in so many different ways”

The Bellator fighter uses the will power that got him through those rough times to improve his all around MMA game.  Though the threat was serious, Baker did not once stop believing that he would return to the cage, even better than he was when he left.

“It’s not more pressure, it’s more impressing myself.” Baker explained.  “It’s kind of showing how strong I really am.  My coach, my trainers, my teammates and listening to their stories and what they seen through their eyes about (me, impresses myself of what I did and what I did push myself through.  It’s never been in my mind to stop and not show who I am, so it helps look back on the fighter I am, and I impressed myself.”

While Baker is impressed with himself, the matchmakers at Bellator must feel the same.  He is coming off a unanimous decision victory over long time journeyman Jeremy Horn, and now Baker meets another veteran in Joe Riggs at Bellator 43.  Baker appreciates fighting bigger names such as those two and he feels that is the level of competition that will prove his worth.

“I get to show my athleticism and my youth,” Baker admitted.  “Jeremy Horn was a veteran and Joe Riggs does have a lot of fights, but they’re letting me show off this new youth coming into the MMA world.  That’s how the game has always evolved, me being 14-2 and Joe Riggs is 32-12, is going to show what has came into the game during that time.”

Baker will find his fight against Riggs no where nearly as concerning as the demons he has faced outside of the cage.  After persevering through a life-threatening disease and battling back to the Bellator cage, Baker is could not be more content.

As he simply put is, “Everything is as perfect as it can get.”

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