Heavyweight champion Ryan Bader unified the Bellator heavyweight title at Bellator 273, then revealed that the pre-fight odds only served to light a fire under him heading into his title clash.

Bader defeated Russian interim champion Valentin Moldavsky at the Footprint Center in Phoenix, Arizona on Saturday night in the promotion’s first-ever title unification bout, and said he used the bookmakers’ confidence in Moldavsky as added motivation ahead of the matchup.

“MMA is a weird, fickle sport,” Bader told reporters at the post-fight press conference. 

“They can look at your last fight, even though it’s big guys, small gloves, throwing at each other – the best in the world. 

“You take one step back and people write you off. They don’t look at your body of work. It’s, ‘What have you done for me lately?’ 

“I always knew I was going to feel good coming up at heavyweight. This is where I wanted to be. I saw those odds and was like, ‘Awesome. They’re counting me out. Now is the time to shut everybody up and keep this train rolling.’ Because I know I’m one of the best in the world and I can be on any given night.”

Any questions over Bader’s next move were swiftly answered when it was confirmed immediately after Bader’s victory that his next assignment would be in Paris, France, against Cheick Kongo.

It’s a rematch of their first bout in September 2019, which ended controversially in a no-contest after an accidental eye-poke from Bader forced the bout to be halted early.

The matchup made sense to Bader, who said he wants to underscore his dominance over the Frenchman with a clean, clear victory in their upcoming rematch.

“I mean, (it’s) unfinished business, right?” he said. 

“I always wanted to get that fight back. He was talking so much s**t from after I poked him in the eye. 

“I’m like, ‘Dude, there’s video of you wincing and it’s in your nose.’ Again, he came out last fight with, ‘I’ll beat your ass in Paris,’ and all this s**t. Whatever. 

“So, yeah, I like that fight. I’ve been asking for that fight forever. I wanted to run that back before I went down to light heavyweight. So now we get to do it.”

Bader also suggested that his days of competing across two weight classes may be over. A former champion at 205 pounds, Bader has competed at both light heavyweight and heavyweight throughout his time with Bellator, but it seems he’s now focusing his fighting future on the heavyweight division.

“I’m comfortable at this weight. I’m no longer going back and forth,” he said. 

“I’m going to be even better coming in at heavyweight. Because I just fought at light heavyweight in October and then put on weight to fight in January. 

“Now I’m a heavyweight. I can just actually get in my body.”

Bellator 273: Official Results

Main Card

  • Ryan Bader (c) def. Valentin Moldavsky (ic) via unanimous decision (48-47. 48-47, 48-47)
  • Benson Henderson def. Islam Mamedov via split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28)
  • Henry Corrales def. Aiden Lee via unanimous technical decision (29-28, 30-27, 300-27)
  • Sabah Homasi def. Jaleel Willis via submission (arm-triangle choke) – Round 1, 1:42

Preliminary Card

  • Enrique Barzola def. Darrion Caldwell via TKO (elbows and punches) – Round 3, 3:01
  • Chris Gonzalez def. Saad Awad via knockout (head kick and punches)  Round 1, 0:36 
  • Dalton Rosta def. Duane Johnson via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
  • Nikita Mikhailov def. Blaine Shutt via TKO (punches) – Round 3, 3:23
  • Lucas Brennan def. Ben Lugo via submission (arm-triangle choke) – Round 1, 2:27
  • Sullivan Cauley def. Ben Parrish via TKO (punches) – Round 1, 4:35