Ryan Bader pondering his future as free agency looms

— -- UFC light heavyweight Ryan Bader had no intention of pursuing free agency in 2016, but when it came time to negotiate his next contract, the same two words kept coming up: Why not?

Bader (21-5) is scheduled to face Antonio Rogerio Nogueira on Saturday in Sao Paulo, Brazil. The bout will headline UFC Fight Night -- and represents the final fight of his contract.

According to Bader, the UFC offered him a new four-fight deal, but the terms just didn't excite him. The 33-year-old is approaching his 20th UFC appearance, and he's willing to at least explore what else is out there.

"The UFC's offer was par for the course -- nothing crazy or anything that made us say, 'Oh man, we need to take this!'" Bader told ESPN.com. "It was one of those things where we were in a position to say, 'Why not fight out the contract?' It doesn't mean I'm leaving the UFC, but why not see what happens?

"There were times where I wasn't happy and we needed to renegotiate, like when I was on 'The Ultimate Fighter' contract and they wanted me to fight Rampage [ Quinton Jackson] in Japan. There was stuff like that. Sponsorship-wise, I took a hit with the Reebok deal. I'm in a weird spot, though I can't bitch too much. But we all want more money for what we do."

Bader's contract situation adds a wrinkle to this weekend, which, to be frank, initially lacked a little significance.

Although Nogueira (22-7) looked good in a first-round knockout over Patrick Cummins in May, a win over the Brazilian would do almost nothing for Bader's stock in the 205-pound division. There's also the fact he's already beat him once. The two met in 2010, with Bader taking a unanimous decision.

"If you look at it as far as a sequence of who I've fought, this matchup might not make the most sense," Bader said. "But when you're in training camp, every fight feels super important. To get where I want to go, I have to win. I do already have a win over him, and he's a little older now, but he's still a crafty, dangerous veteran."

Fighting out of Arizona, Bader says he felt extremely relaxed during his last fight, a second-round knockout over Ilir Latifi in September. Between 2013 and 2015, Bader won five decisions in a row, which he says actually put an enormous amount of pressure on him to keep the streak going.

He says he took very few risks because of that, and that showed a little in a quick knockout loss to Anthony Johnson in January. Now, Bader says he's taking chances and looking for knockouts, which would probably lead him to a title shot faster than a long streak of decisions anyway.

"It's one of those things, I won five fights in a row and didn't get a title shot," Bader said. "I'm not entirely focused on going out there and getting the win, per se. When I was on my winning streak, I was fighting a certain way because I was telling myself, 'If you're going to get a title shot, you absolutely cannot lose.'

"Now, I'm taking more risks. I'm freed up more. It's a fun mindset to be in. Looking back on it now, especially with the way people are getting title shots these days, it probably would have been better for me to throw caution to the wind. I might have lost one or two fights because of it, or I might have won two or three in a row by knockout and got a title shot already. At that point, I really changed the way I look at things."