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'People respect Fedor too much': Ryan Bader on key to beating Russian MMA legend Emelianenko

'People respect Fedor too much': Ryan Bader on key to beating Russian MMA legend Emelianenko
Bellator light heavyweight champion Ryan Bader faces Fedor Emelianenko this weekend to determine their first heavyweight titleholder in more than four years and says that the key to defeating him is almost entirely a mental one.

Bader, who claimed Bellator's light heavyweight title in the summer of 2017, will be hoping to add a second world championship to his collection when he takes on 'The Last Emperor' in the culmination of the organization's heavyweight Grand Prix in Inglewood, California this Saturday. According to the American, the key factor in winning is not to get overwhelmed by the consensus greatest heavyweight of all time, but to simply look at him as any other opponent.

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The NCAA All-American Division I wrestler was one of Bellator's high profile recruits from the UFC and is undefeated through four bouts with the company this far. His next, though, is by some margin the biggest bout of his career. In a recent interview, Bader described the mental approach he believes will help him to beat a fighter of Emelianenko's pedigree.

"If you look back in the Chael fight, we didn’t get to see too much, he looked great," Bader said of Fedor's Grand Prix semi-final win against Chael Sonnen to MMA Weekly. "I felt like Chael respected him too much."

The respect that the Russian heavyweight has garnered through his career is well-earned. He has been defeated just five time through 44 bouts and his 28-fight undefeated streak between 2001 and 2009 remains one of mixed martial arts' most enduring achievements. 

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Nonetheless, Bader suggests that he has learned from others' mistakes and insists that he is fighting a man of flesh and blood in the cage on Saturday, a man who can be knocked out.

"In the (Frank) Mir fight, he did get dropped right out of the gate," Bader explained. "Before that (Fedor) got dropped and knocked out by Matt Mitrione. The fight before that against Fabio Maldonado, he got dropped a bunch of times. I do feel like I can definitely put some hands on him."

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At 42, it's not hasty to suggest that Fedor's best days are behind him. His once-impervious chin is no longer seemingly made of steel, but Bader says that it would be a mistake to underestimate an opponent of this caliber. 

"My honest opinion of him I think he’s very dangerous,” Bader said. "I go back and watch his fights and obviously analyze it and he has that power. He comes in there and he throws bombs."

However, Bader is also keen to point out that there won't just be one fighter in the cage on Saturday night with the propensity for throwing nuclear strikes.

"I feel like he hasn’t fought a guy like me in a long time. I’m going to keep that pressure on him the whole time. I know I can strike with him, I feel like I can go to the ground with him, I can do everything. I feel confident going into this fight."

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