Wednesday was not a good day to be Ryan Bader (pictured). Despite winning four straight scraps, UFC president Dana White decided to bypass Bader and grant Alexander Gustafsson first crack at light heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier’s freshly-minted title.
The fact that Gustafsson has lost two of his last three bouts and is coming off a first round TKO loss to Anthony Johnson has got to make it sting just a little bit more.
What’s most interesting about White’s decision is Bader and Cormier practically gifted White the sizzle for the steak. Not only do they already hate each other, but the bitter rivals practically cut their own promo when Bader crashed Cormier’s UFC 187 post-fight press conference to confront the new champ.
At the same time, White is also a business man. While there is genuine heat between Bader and Cormier, all of Bader’s victories in his current run have come via decision, which we all know isn’t the most aesthetically appealing means of winning inside the cage.
Furthermore, both come from a wrestling pedigree. Wrestler vs. wrestler doesn’t always bode well for generating buzz for pay-per-view buys.
So for now, Bader is on the outside looking in. It appears Bader may be assigned to former champ Rashad Evans, who is presently slotted one spot below him in the UFC light heavyweight rankings.
Evans has also been out of action since November 2013 due to complications following knee surgery, so a win there still might not guarantee Bader a crack at the crown. Perhaps a matchup against Johnson, who is coming off a title loss, might make more sense for Bader from a top contender stand point.
Then again, none of this probably makes any sense to poor Bader.