Ryan Bader’s Passion for The Military
Ryan Bader knows he’s living a blessed life.
The husband and father of three has built a track record of success throughout his time in athletic competition and has continued to do so well into his professional career. The 32-year-old is one of the top light heavyweight fighters in the world–no small feet in a talent-stacked division–but he’s never lost sight of the broader scope of what matters.
Bader realizes his dream is possible because brave men and women in the United States Armed Forces protect the very freedoms he enjoys on a daily basis. Furthermore, the former Arizona State University standout’s appreciation is not shown from a distance as he’s spent the past several years working hand in hand with organizations who provide support for military service members.
For Bader his donations are more than a commitment, but a passion to help the true warriors of the world.
“I’ve been everywhere around the world fighting for the UFC and in many of those places we would stop and visit military bases. In doing so I was able to meet tons of veterans and got a firsthand look at the job the do for us. I was also able to see the injuries and sacrifices they’ve made to protect our country.
“On top of that I have a lot of friends in the military. I also have some friends on SEAL Team 3 so being around it, and hearing their stories I knew I needed to do anything I could to support them. There was never a second thought for me because I believe people should do everything in their power to help.”
What started out as a moderate financial donation from Bader to the Wounded Warriors organization back in 2013 has turned into a full blown operation for the No. 5 ranked light heavyweight in the world. Throughout his efforts Bader has worked with numerous outfits all aimed at the betterment of post-service life for American military service members and to date has donated more than $85,000 to the cause.
“We’ve been very diligent with our efforts and who we work with,” Bader said. “And it’s always more than just money. You don’t want to make a donation and after administrative fees and other fees are taken out have a small chunk of what was offered actually go toward helping. We want tangible results and that’s why we’ve worked with the programs we have.
“I’ve also tried to make the experience as personal as possible. I brought six wounded warriors out to one of my fights and got the cageside seats for the night. They were able to see a bunch of great fights then meet everybody who competed that night. Those are the things I think are important. Yeah, the money helps, but getting to spend facetime with those people who have given so much makes such a big difference.”
While Bader knows his financial contributions have served to provide assistance for those in need, he’s gone above and beyond to ensure that relationships are created on a personal level. For him it’s the faces and the stories told that started this journey, and those are the exact motivations that exist today.
“That’s the most satisfying part to me,” Bader explained. “Getting to sit down with them, hear their stories and have a conversation means the world to me. Talking to those men and women makes me want to do as much as I can to make sure they receive the help they need.
“I’ve had incredible interactions on down the line and that has continued as I’ve worked with Brian Stann and Hired Heroes. I made a donation to Hired Heroes and wore their shirt on my walkout to the fight. Brian called me several days later to tell me a veteran saw my shirt, applied online and ended up getting a job because of it. Hearing success stories like that only motivate me to continue doing what I’ve been doing.
“A story like that only reinforces what I already knew about Brian Stann and Hired Heroes. This is a company who makes sure every bit of support you offer goes to the people who need it the most. And that’s the kind of company I want to continue to work with.”
While Bader will continue to pursue his dreams in the athletic realm, and it’s his philanthropic efforts he’s hoping will serve a much larger goal. As the father of three beautiful children Bader’s world perspective has shifted, and the ultimate goal–the wins and losses–exist in place far beyond what an athletic career will hold.
Bader is determined to shape a worldview for his children that will ensure they grow up appreciating the things in life that truly matter.
“I want to set a great example for my children the way my parents did for me,” Bader said. “I’ve been blessed to be surrounded by great people my entire life and I’m dedicated to ensuring the same for my children. Every parent wants to teach their kids right from wrong, but they also want to make the world they will grow up in a better place. In small or large, that’s what I’m trying to do.
“Children learn their morals and values through their parents and my wife and I have been acutely aware of this throughout. I’m also aware I compete in a sport that gets an unnecessarily bad rep. Many people are still stuck in that 1990’s point of view of mixed martial arts, and it’s good to be one of the athletes who helps break the mold. Being a good fighter is important, but being a good human being is what ultimately matters most and sets the example for my children to follow.”