APEMAN Ryan Bader Breaks the Mold

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By Ben York

Humor me, if you will, as I tell a quick story about Bellator light heavyweight champion and APEMAN, Ryan Bader, before he defends his title on November 3.

I’ve always been a fan of combat sports. I’ve dabbled around in a few different disciplines, and eventually wanted to try my hand at MMA. So, a couple of years ago I walked into Power MMA & Fitness in Arizona where Bader trains.

As fate would have it, Bader and I pulled into the gym’s parking lot at the same time.

Holy shit, I thought. That’s Ryan Bader.

Bader was training for his fight against Rashad Evans (which he’d go on to win via unanimous decision). Being the fan-boy I am, I at least wanted to wish him good luck.

“Hey, man,” I said to Bader, trying my best not to sound like an idiot as we walked in from the parking lot. “Big fan of yours. Kick some ass in October.”

I expected Bader to just give me a quick nod and proceed on to far more important things like, you know, punching people in the face.

But I was wrong.

“I really appreciate that, man,” Bader said with a smile as he stopped dead in his tracks, as if I were a longtime friend of his and not some random dude in the street. “Have you been coming here long? You box?”

If I’m honest, I have absolutely no idea what I said back to him. I’m sure it was gibberish or something completely nonsensical. I was totally surprised at how kind he was, and that he thought I was a boxer. I do know the conversation lasted for several minutes, and I assume it went well, but have zero recollection of what we discussed.

Pretty damn cool, right?

It’s important to provide context around the interaction. This is a guy who was riding a four-fight win streak in the UFC. It was, literally, just a couple of weeks out from his next fight. That means he was in the middle of an insanely grueling training camp. The last thing he needed was to delay his livelihood to chat with some random guy he never met.

But he did. And it was awesome.

But that’s just who Bader is, and why APEMAN is so proud to be in his corner. He’s one of the nicest, most genuine people you’ll ever meet. Inside the cage, though, he’s a damn monster. He’s Arizona through and through, but his appeal extends throughout the entire MMA community.

That dichotomy makes Bader incredibly likeable. He doesn’t take himself too seriously, nor does he take the position he’s in for granted. He’s a great family man, and someone you can rally around.

And it’s exactly why the Bader Nation will continue to grow.