It’ll be a quick turnaround for lightweight contender Saad Awad at Bellator 163 when he moves back up to the welterweight division to take on dangerous knockout artist Brennan Ward.
Awad has been counting the hours, minutes and seconds he’s been away from the octagon since losing a decision to Derek Anderson back in August. Some losses sting more than others, and that loss in particular has been eating away at him. It’s one thing to lose after putting forth a great effort, but it’s something else entirely to walk away from a fight feeling like everything wasn’t left in the cage.
That’s exactly how Awad felt after that fight.
Anderson’s ground game was much better than he anticipated, and he was on the losing end of many of the grappling transitions that ended up deciding the battle. He was so upset after the fight that he was already angling for his next one before he even left the venue. Even Bellator’s assurances that something would be worked out wasn’t enough. Awad kept calling and pestering the promotion until an offer finally came through.
“I underestimated him a little bit,” Awad told Today’s Knockout. “I underestimated his Jiu-Jitsu a little bit, and I think that’s what kind of threw me off. I got put in a couple different positions because I allowed him to attack because I wasn’t on point.
“I actually called Bellator that night, I was so pissed. I told them, ‘I need to fight again, and I need to fight again ASAP.’ They said, ‘OK, we’ll keep you posted,’ and I kept hitting them up. They asked me if I’d fight at 170, and I said, ‘Yeah if you can keep me busy’. They offered me a fight and I took it.”
Ward’s size and one-punch knockout power offers a whole new set of problems for Awad. Only one of his fights has ever gone the distance, and eight of his 13 wins have come by knockout. He is coming off a first-round submission loss to Evangelista Santos in April, so he will be equally as fired up to get back into the win column.
But Awad isn’t shying away from the challenge. Quite the contrary. He is actually looking forward to stepping into the cage with an opponent with a reputation for standing and banging. While he didn’t call Anderson out specifically, he did touch briefly on the subject of point-fighting.
“These are the fights that people want to see,” said Awad. “You get guys that want to wrestle you down and just hold you just to win a decision. I understand it because they want to win and they want to get paid more but for everybody else it sucks. I plan on being around for a while, and you’re not going to be around for a while if you’re not exciting.”
Things are heating up at welterweight with the addition of former UFC contender Rory MacDonald, and Awad is happy to be “semi-a part” of the recent growth of the division. But he wouldn’t commit to actually staying at 170 pounds. He actually sounded more inclined to drop back down to lightweight given the first opportunity. Staying busy and taking whatever opportunities thrown his way—at welterweight or lightweight—is his primary concern at the moment.
“There’s a lot of good talent there, some really good strikers there and some guys that could kind of shake up the division,” said Awad. “There’s a lot of good matchups that still can be made. I’m excited to be semi-a part of it. I wouldn’t say welterweight is my home because lightweight is my home. But if the time comes around and they ask me to do it again and plan the expense, I’m down for it.”
As for his bout with Ward, Awad doesn’t plan on the fight lasting long. Both have built a strong reputation on finishing fights, and Awad hopes to right the ship with a spectacular finish on Friday night.
“I think I’m going to finish him. I’m going to go out there and fight the way I know how to fight,” Awad said. “I know he’s going to come and he’s going to bring it. So hopefully I finish him in the first round. If not, it’s going to be a war because he likes to stand and bang and he’s a big boy. I’m going to be right in front of him.”
Bellator 163 takes place on Friday at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut. The fight card features the light heavyweight championship bout between Liam McGeary and Phil Davis. Anderson, welterweight star Paul Daley, former Strikeforce women’s bantamweight champion Marloes Coenen and heavyweight phenom Sergei Kharitonov will also be in action.