Ryan Bader found something positive in losing two consecutive fights.
Bader (Twitter: @RyanBader) is matched up against Jason Brilz this Saturday at UFC 139 at the HP Pavilion in San Jose, Calif.
The former Arizona State University wrestler took it upon himself to make adjustments during this training camp. Bader tore through his first 12 opponents and held an undefeated record. He captured The Ultimate Fighter championship in the eighth season and trounced the likes of Keith Jardine and Antonio Rogerio Nogueira before suffering his first career loss to current UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones.
Bader returned to take on a legend in Tito Ortiz at UFC 132. The two-time wrestling All-America was a heavy favorite against Ortiz, but came up stunningly short as “The Huntington Beach Bad Boy” submitted Bader in the opening frame.
The losses prompted Bader to modify not only himself, but also the people around him.
“We went out and got a few new coaches,” Bader explained to MMADiehards.com. “We got a head coach that knows MMA, now. We opened up Power MMA and Fitness, and we always had a Muay Thai coach and a boxing coach and a wrestling coach and stuff like that, but we never had a head coach. We have one that has been around the game of MMA for a while. We brought in Tom Vaughn from Albuquerque, Carlos Condit and a bunch of other guys.
“Having a head coach looking at you through your whole camp made me realize I was over-training. I feel good cardio-wise. I have energy and just that fire in me. I’m dying to be in the cage, whereas the last couple of fights I felt flat when I went in because I was over-training. I felt like I was at home on my couch and I couldn’t get anything going. Now I feel good. I re-evaluated everything. I re-evaluated my game and got rid of the stuff that wasn’t working for me.”
Enduring back-to-back losses is the sole reason Bader recognized change was in order.
In any sport when athletes reaches a certain pinnacle, many feel almost invincible. Mixed martial artists are no different. It’s not difficult to understand why Bader may have become somewhat complacent after racking up a 12-0 record and receiving praise from fans and media. He was on the fast-track to a title shot without fully evolving as a mixed martial artist.
The setbacks were something Bader said had to happen in order for him to progress in the sport.
“I wouldn’t have changed anything if I went out there and beat Tito as I was expected to,” Bader admitted. “I’d be doing the same things. I would be successful, but I wouldn’t be where I should be. Going out there and having those losses sucks, but you got to learn from it. I lost to two good guys, Jon Jones is the current champ and Tito is no slouch, so I have to learn from that. If I didn’t have those two losses I’d be right back where I was and I wouldn’t have realized I need to evolve and change.”
Just like Bader was a favorite against Ortiz, he comes into UFC 139 as the favorite against Brilz.
Brilz, like Bader, comes from a strong wrestling background. A member of the University of Nebraska-Omaha wrestling team and a former assistant coach at UNO, Brilz has become known for his vicious ground-and-pound inside the Octagon.
Bader and Brilz match up fairly equal in the wrestling department, but “Darth” feels he has the edge in all-around skills.
“Brilz is an underrated wrestler and he’s a beast on top,” Bader said. “I do feel I have better wrestling, but he’s right up there. I do feel I have better boxing, but we’ll have to see what happens. We have our game plan and we see some areas we think we can exploit.”
Ironically, Bader and Brilz are both entering this bout after experiencing back-to-back losses for the first time in their career.
UFC president Dana White is no stranger to relieving an employee of their duties after dropping three consecutive fights, therefore both combatants are in a peculiar position heading into this fight. If there ever was a must-win scenario, it is this one.
“I put that kind of pressure on myself every time, even if I don’t want to,” Bader confessed. “You train for two-plus months for a certain guy, so there’s going to be a ton of pressure. I’m not really looking at it that way because I want to be the aggressive, same type of fighter that’s going out there looking for the finish.”
Bader will compete with the same ferociousness he always had in the past at UFC 139. The only difference this time will be positive reinforcement.