Right around the same time Tito Ortiz was accepting a main event fight against Rashad Evans at UFC 133, Ryan Bader was finishing up an hour-long session of pad work with Xtreme Couture boxing coach Gil Martinez.
The panic button hasn’t been hit just yet for the 28-year-old -- but just about. After back-to-back stoppage losses to Jon Jones and a massive underdog in Ortiz, Bader’s stock in the light heavyweight division has gone from the ceiling to the gutter.
“On Twitter, I hear a few things,” Bader told ESPN.com. “I haven’t had to deal with many negative things in my career. Now, I see, ‘You suck. You lost to Tito.’
“You try to just take it with a grain of salt. It’s whatever. I still have support from the fans who have followed me for awhile.”
In most cases, there’s no shame in losing to former UFC light heavyweight champion -- unless that former champ hasn’t won a fight in five years and appears on the verge of retirement.
It was a well-known fact Ortiz’s job was on the line when he met Bader as a 5-to-1 underdog at UFC 132 earlier this month. No one, it seemed, expected the fight to go the way it did -- a first-round submission win for Ortiz -- including Dana White.
“I’ll be honest, I thought that was going to be Tito’s last fight,” White said, during a national media call Thursday. “I thought Bader was going to win that fight and I thought Tito was going to retire.”
Bader (12-2) isn’t making any excuses for the performance. He credits Ortiz for the win and doesn’t count him out in any of his future fights, but admits, “It’s been a tough loss. I should have gone out and beat him as that big of a favorite.”
The one positive of it all is Bader believes that even though the fight lasted just 146 seconds, it’s clearly shown him the areas of his game that need to improve.
Although Ortiz ended the fight with a guillotine choke, the real difference was a straight right that dropped Bader. Coming from his wrestling background at Arizona State University, Bader says he’s learned how to throw punches but never fully embraced the finer aspects of boxing, which would have helped him avoid that right.
“I’ve got to work on my defense and my movement,” Bader said. “That’s one of my problems. I don’t move my feet. Those mistakes cost me the fight.”
Bader is confident that spending time with Martinez, who’s known for improving the hands of Randy Couture and Gray Maynard, will be a big step in his evolution as a fighter.
Admittedly, he probably got too comfortable at his home gym Power MMA in Arizona -- both with coaches and sparring partners.
“I need to get out of my comfort zone. I want to be nervous because I’m sparring with a new guy,” Bader said. “I’m going to be getting different looks. I really can’t work any harder because I was already going so hard, but I can change things.”
Bader may have helped Ortiz breathe new life into his career but there’s reason to believe the loss might do the same for his own. Following the loss to Jones in February, there wasn’t as much pressure to change his approach as there is now.
“I lose three in a row, that’s tough man,” Bader said. “You see guys get cut for that. So yeah, I do feel that pressure.
“I’m not calling anybody out. I’m not saying anything. I’m not even in position to say when I’d like to be back. I’m just waiting to see what they want me to do and it’s actually nice, because I’ll just get better in the meantime.”