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Ryan Bader’s Big Free Agency Payday May Not Come

Written by Tom Ngo
November 21st, 2016
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UFC Ryan Bader

Let me preface what you’re about to read by stating UFC light heavyweight Ryan Bader (pictured) is one of the nicest guys in the game. Unfortunately, nice guys typically finish last.

Bader opted to roll the dice on himself by declining a contract extension with the UFC entering Saturday’s scrap with Antonio Rogerio Nogueira. The gamble paid off for Bader, as he dominated the aged Brazilian for a third round TKO victory at UFC Fight Night 100.

However, don’t expect the UFC to back up the Brink’s truck just yet.

After an even 20 fights under the UFC’s banner, which includes an impressive 15-5 record, a TUF 8 title and wins in seven of his past eight outings, including two straight, Bader has shown over his eight-year UFC career that he’s not a box office draw.

Bader’s game certainly won’t have the UFC’s new ownership, who dropped a whopping $4.2 billion in July to purchase the planet’s premier mixed martial arts promotion, believing he’s worth a big investment. If you were to read between the lines, it seems as though the veteran understands this better than anybody.

“Look, I love the UFC, I want to fight in the UFC. It’s got to make sense, though,” Bader said after putting down Little Nog.

Bader has never fought in a light heavyweight title eliminator, let alone a title tilt. He’s never headlined a UFC pay-per-view card, though the UFC has allowed him to take top billing on four free TV events on FOX-owned networks.

At 33 years of age, the UFC wouldn’t be going out on a limb by thinking they’ve already seen Bader’s best.

So where does that leave Bader, exactly? He’ll receive a nicer contract offer than what the UFC presented him prior to beating Nogueira, but not by much. Bellator has shown they’re more than happy to gobble up the UFC’s scraps.

One of Bellator’s biggest bargaining chips in luring free agents is they allow their fighters to secure their own sponsorships. However, Bader’s next UFC fight marks his 21st so he enters the $20,000 tier on Reebok’s pay scale, the most available outside of title challengers and champions.

It would be hard to believe Bader could secure well over $20k in endorsements each fight to cancel out the difference he would earn by accepting a lesser Bellator contract to the UFC’s more lucrative one.

Therefore, Bader’s best bet would be to stick with the UFC. There’s far less financial risk, with a higher possibility for future financial gain if he can somehow win the belt. However, it won’t be the massive payday Bader was hoping to bank.

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