BANGOR, Maine — Neither Ryan “Darth” Bader nor Ovince Saint Preux had any reason to be familiar with the Queen City until two months ago, just after each scored his most recent mixed martial arts victory on the same Ultimate Fighting Championship card in Vancouver, British Columbia
That’s when the two light heavyweights received contracts to face each other in the main event of the UFC’s first visit to Maine — Saturday’s Fight Night 47 show at the Cross Insurance Center.
The preliminary fights are scheduled to start at 8 p.m., with the main card to follow at 10.
“It’s nothing personal but obviously I had never heard of Bangor, Maine,” said Saint Preux, a former football player at the University of Tennessee, just after meeting with the University of Maine football team Thursday morning.
“But at the same time they called on me to help open up this new market, so they have a lot of faith in me. I’m going to make sure they continue to have faith in me by putting on a good show Saturday night.”
Bader (18-4) is ranked eighth among UFC light heavyweights while Saint Preux (16-5) is 10th, but while both fighters are 31 years old their MMA resumes differ.
Bader, a former All-American wrestler at Arizona State, is 10-4 in UFC fights and has taken on a bevy of stars, including current light heavyweight champion Jon Jones, Tito Ortiz, Lyoto Machida, Quinton “Rampage” Jackson and Glover Teixeira.
“I’ve fought the who’s who of MMA and he hasn’t,” Bader said after a public workout at Hollywood Casino Hotel and Raceway. “I’ve been in with tons of former champions, I’ve lost to some great guys and I’ve beaten some great guys. He hasn’t fought anybody in the top 10.”
Saint Preux may not have faced the same caliber of opponents but is 4-0 in the UFC and has won five consecutive fights and 13 of his last 14.
“(Bader’s) a strong wrestler, which is something I’m going to have to deal with, but the thing with Ryan is that since he’s been fighting in the UFC you know what he’s going to do. He’s going to box you but at the same time go after the takedowns,” Saint Preux said.
“The thing about me is people are still trying to figure me out. I don’t have one particular way to finish a fight. I can finish a fight in many different ways and that’s beneficial for me. He’s going to try and figure me out but I definitely think I’m going to give him a run for his money.”
What’s at stake is a chance for the winner to fight one of the upper-echelon contenders in the division.
“If I want to move up and fight top-three, top-five type guys that I’ve lost to in the past I’ve got to beat guys like OSP,” Bader said. “My goal is to be a champion.”
While Bader may need a win to remain a big-fight candidate, Saint Preux hopes to earn his opportunity by continuing a steady climb up the rankings.
“I think he’s got a little more at stake just because I’m the newcomer, part of the new breed and he’s been around for a while,” Saint Preux said. “He’s fought tougher guys than I have but a lot of the guys he fought I personally think he should have put away in the first round.
“He relies on his wrestling too much, and the guys he’s had a hard time with are the guys with length and power, and that’s my attributes.”
Bader acknowledges Saint Preux’s physical skills.
“He has the ability more so than a lot of other people to get out of certain situations with his athleticism,” Bader said. “He’ll throw his hips over and be able to get out of a takedown just by being athletic. That being said, I look to exploit the experience factor.”
Part of what Bader sees as that experience factor is having trained for the five-round main-event distance before, albeit for his first-round loss to Teixeira last September.
This marks Saint Preux’s first main event.
“The longer the fight goes it’s to my advantage, but I’d rather not go five rounds,” Bader said. “I’d rather go in there and finish the fight early, but if it goes five rounds I’m totally ready for that.”
Ten of Saint Preux’s victories have ended in the first round, but he’s not concerned about the potential for a 25-minute match.
“When I found about about this fight it right after my last fight against Ryan Jimmo (at UFC 174 on June 14), it helped out tremendously because I already had built a base around a three-round fight. All I had to do was build a base for two more rounds,” he said.
“Now that my body’s gotten used to it I’m going to be OK with a five-round fight if it comes to that.”