After Breakout Performances, Bellator’s Saad Awad Looking to Build on “The Best Year”
By Kelsey Mowatt
Saad Awad may have come up short against David Rickels in Bellator’s Season 8 lightweight tournament finals, but there’s no question that 2013 has been a breakout campaign for the veteran fighter. Although Awad has been competing since 2006 and had won four straight fights before returning to Bellator, his recent knockout wins over Guillaume DeLorenzi and Will Brooks had the MMA world buzzing.
“It’s been the best year for me to be honest,” Awad recently relayed on Full Contact Fighter Radio. “I got my name out there; got to showcase some of my skills. I got to go out there and fight on a big stage and in front of a lot of people which is pretty cool.”
Of course, with success comes attention, and Awad’s future opponents will be more aware now of his abilities and the stopping power he possesses.
“I know before nobody knew what I could do, so Brooks and the other kid moved forward and got caught early,” said Awad. “So I do think they’re going to be kind of skeptical about standing and trading with me, kind of the way Rickels was. He kind of ran around and kicked me, ran around and kicked me, and striked when he had to strike.”
“So I think they are going to be more aware, which is cool,” Awad furthered. “Then we’ll get more of a slower paced fight, and I won’t have to worry about chasing them down, so I can sit back and think about what I want to do, instead of thinking ‘oh I have to fight, I have to fight.”
Although Bellator hasn’t informed Awad yet of whether he’ll compete in the promotion’s next lightweight tourney, the Millennia MMA fighter will be back competing for them this Fall.
“Nothing’s set in stone, but I do know they said be ready for September, so I know I’m fighting in September,” said Awad. “I’m in a pretty good contract with them so I’m not going anywhere anytime soon, unless I lose a bunch of fights and they cut me, but I don’t see that happening.”
After stepping in as a replacement for the injured Patricio Freire, Awad (14-5) went on to defeat DeLorenzi and Brooks, before facing the former welterweight Rickels in the finals. Rickels went on to stop Awad in the final seconds of round two, and will fight lightweight champ Michael Chandler on July 31st.
“I’ve digested that loss too,” Awad noted. “A loss is a loss no matter how it went down, but I’m back on my feet, injuries are pretty much healed up. Started training again to get ready for this next run.”
And what does Awad think of Rickels’ chances to defeat the reigning champ Chandler?
“To be honest, Chandler’s an extremely strong wrestler, and if he fights a smart fight I think he can beat Rickels by unanimous decision,” said Awad. “Just by taking him down, out wrestling him and outshining him. But Rickels showcased his striking in my fight and that he does have heavy hands, so he’s kind of like me. He’s one punch away from ending a fight no matter what time’s on the bell.”
“I give the edge to Chandler, because he’s more of a complete fighter, but Rickels is big and he hits hard,” Awad furthered. “So it could go either way.”