Ryan Bader will not get his wish of having first crack at light heavyweight champion and bitter rival Daniel Cormier. The UFC went a different direction and selected Swedish mixed martial artist Alexander Gustafsson instead, despite the drama created by Bader and Cormier when they almost came to blows during UFC 187's post-fight news conference.
The 31-year-old Bader has made a strong case for becoming the top contender for the light heavyweight belt. He is currently on a four-fight winning streak, the most recent of which was a decision over Phil Davis in a preliminary to a Gustafsson versus Anthony “Rumble” Johnson bout in Stockholm. The American No. 3-ranked contender also piqued the public’s curiosity when he rushed the stage and confronted Cormier, who mocked his presence during the news conference.
In the end, UFC President Dana White and company selected the No. 2-ranked Gustaffson, who was also heavily touted as the best challenger to the then-undisputed light heavyweight champ Jon Jones. Gustafsson was expected to get the rematch with Jones until he was stopped in his tracks by a flurry of uppercuts from Johnson during their main event fight in January. The 28-year-old striker was emotional after his defeat to Johnson, which marked the first time he lost due to strikes. “The Mauler” was supposed to make his return to the Octagon opposite Glover Texeira mid-June but was removed from the card due to a back injury.
While White already announced the card which is expected to be billed as the main event, other details such as the date and venue are not yet finalized. The UFC’s Spanish language website stated that the bout will headline UFC 191 on Sept. 5 at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. But reigning champion Cormier quickly refuted the details by confirming his opponent is Gustafsson and negating the UFC 191 booking.
Fighting Gustafsson not ufc 191. # andstill
— Daniel Cormier (@dc_mma) June 4, 2015
Other possible dates for the match include Oct. 3 (UFC 192 at Houston, Texas), Nov. 15 (Australia) or Dec. 5 (UFC 194). While awaiting the final word on the schedule, look back on how Cormier recovered from a first round takedown by Johnson to take home the title with a rear naked choke in the third round:
(YouTube/Susan B. Mello)