Venue: Footprint Center, Phoenix, Arizona Date: Saturday, 16 October (into Sunday, 17 October)
Coverage: Watch live coverage on BBC iPlayer from 23:55 BST, Saturday
Ryan Bader was the first simultaneous two-weight champion in Bellator MMA history.
Seemingly untouchable, ‘Darth’ Bader captured light-heavyweight gold in 2017 before conquering the heavyweight world grand prix in sensational fashion, knocking out MMA legend Fedor Emelianenko in the final in 2019.
But things changed.
His road to redemption starts this Saturday at Bellator 268, where he takes on Corey Anderson in the semi-final of the light-heavyweight world grand prix, having lost the strap to current champion Vadim Nemkov last year.
“I would love to get redemption. The main goal is get my belt back,” Bader told BBC Sport.
“I would love to show the fans and myself that it wasn’t me that took that loss to Nemkov. I can go out there and beat that dude.”
Bader got back on track last April, beating Lyoto Machida in the quarter-final of the light-heavyweight tournament.
Standing in Bader’s way of a spot in the final is ‘Overtime’ Anderson. The pair go back having trained together five years ago but have very different accounts of the sparring sessions.
However, Bader is relishing the opportunity to mix it with one of the top fighters in the world in Anderson.
“I feel great about this match-up,” he said.
“I fight really well against fellow wrestlers. He’s tough, he brings the pace, he’s good on the feet but I’m better everywhere. I definitely have more power in my hands and my wrestling is superior.”
Bader admits he’s had Anderson on his radar since he arrived in Bellator last year.
“Once he came over, it was inevitable we were going to fight and here we are,” he said.
“There’s mutual respect but we are two of the top guys in the world – so we were always going to meet.”
Bader will be the hometown hero at Bellator 268 having lived in Phoenix, Arizona for 20 years but he says it’s just another fight.
“It’s no different. It’s the same routine,” he insisted.
“I’ve travelled all over the world. To have it here, it’s a bit simpler. I’m working out the same. I just happen to have a lot more fans here. My family will be here but there’s pressure with every fight.”
Bader started his MMA journey in 2008 and has achieved huge milestones, but Bellator’s heavyweight champion says he isn’t slowing down.
“For me right now, I’ve built a resume and I get paid very well,” Bader said.
“This is my career and this is how I make money. I have a competitive spirit in me.
“Beating Fedor was one of the pinnacles of my career and where do you go from there? But I still love competing. I feel better than I’ve ever felt. I can train hard right now. Mind, body and spirit.”
When asked what the outcome of the fight would be, Bader said: “There will be fireworks. There’s going to be a TKO along the way.”