Time is a major factor for Saad Awad and his fighting career. The first generation Palestinian-American has sat on the cusp of Bellator gold for the greater part of three years.
Saad Awad: A Continued Search for Greatness
Time and time again, Awad has seen himself stuck within the recurring cycle of contender creation. Ultimately, he sees his goal within reach, and another journey up the treacherous path to world title holder seems nearly complete.
A Newcomer in a Foreign World
It’s been a long journey for the California born fighter. He first signed with Bellator in 2013. At the time, the promotion was under different management. They were nearing the end of tournament style match-making.
It was under this system that Awad began to establish himself as a name in the MMA community. He made successful runs in season 8 and 9 of the Bellator lightweight tournament. Season 8 saw Awad hand Will Brooks the first defeat of his career in the tournament’s semi-final round.
The impressive victory elevated the promotional newcomer to the finals, only one victory away from challenging for the lightweight title. He lost to David Rickels, effectively eliminating his chance at mixed martial arts immortality.
Once management flipped and a new regime presided over the property of Bellator, Saad Awad used the opportunity to continue his rise. Three consecutive victories over Joe Duarte, Sergio Rios, and Rob Sinclair put his trajectory directly towards another potential title shot.
“I was a nobody when I signed with Bellator. I got thrown in the tournaments, and I kind of made my name there… when [Scott] Coker came and signed a bunch of people (and) got rid of a bunch of people, it kind of revamped the organization and made us kind of work our way up. I built my name, all over again, through Bellator”.
Awad faced Patricky Pitbull for the division’s top contender spot, proceeding his impressive three-fight win streak. The conclusion of this high stakes match-up ended in a similar fashion as the tournament finals of season 8 for Awad. He lost the bout via unanimous decision, and subsequently, his footing in the lightweight ranks.
Another Run to the Top
Now the 16 fight Bellator veteran is primed for another run at the lightweight title. Currently, he holds a three-fight win streak which includes victories over Ryan Quinn (at a catchweight of 165 lbs.), Zach Freeman, and J.J. Ambrose. Awad has put himself in another enviable position. One where he can control his own destiny.
By weeks end, Awad will face Ryan Couture at Bellator 201. Admittedly, a victory of this caliber will not bring him what he deserves. Yet, the significance of this moment is not lost on Awad. While he doesn’t believe this match-up will garner a title opportunity, it is a means to an end.
At this moment, the opponent could matter less. As he points out himself, contractually, there is no difference between the promotions top ranked fighters and its lesser established ones.
“I’m going to fight whoever they give me and I’m going to keep barking for a top guy”, Awad told MMASucka. “Honestly as long as they are paying me the same, until I get a new contract, I don’t mind fighting whoever. It’s not like I’m getting paid more for fighting a top 5 guy versus fighting a non-ranked guy. (Someone) that hasn’t fought in a year, that’s one and one in his last two fights. So it’s not like they are (saying), ‘hey, how about you fight ___, and were going to pay you 50 grand more’. If that was the case, shit, I’ll make sure I fight a top contender”.
The matchup is one he considers favorable. By his own account, the style which Couture presents has not fared well against Awad and his attack. Not only does his record speak towards the clash of styles but his new camp could only have improved upon that. The Californian recently switched camps. He recently began training at the newly established Treigning Lab in Anaheim, California. The new facility was founded by UFC bantamweight champion, TJ Dillashaw and former UFC fighter, Duane Ludwig. There he gets a heavy amount of wrestling training.
“I did for want to fight a striker but if you look at my win/loss ratio from strikers to wrestlers, I think I beat 90% of wrestlers I fight… I’m excited about this fight, Ryan is a good wrestler but he’s not the best wrestler. I recently joined a new camp, at the Treigning Lab. This whole camp is built behind wrestlers. Naturally, it’s what we do there. We wrestle all the time there. (I think) everything happens for a reason so I ended up finding this camp at the perfect time and I’ve been wrestling my ass off so I doubt this dude is going to be able to outwrestle me”.
A Journey’s End
A complete ending for Awad doesn’t include flashy fights, domineering victory, or fan favorite attached to it. What it does include is a gold strap and a seed. Not a seed planted in a soft warm patch of soil in the backyard, but the seed of an idea.
When Bellator officials jokingly asked him if he would fight on the promotions first event in Israel, he loved the idea that he swiftly responded, yes. Much to the annoyance of middle eastern MMA fans, this question seemed to be rhetorical. The international fans made their opinions known, and upon planning the second event in Israel, Bellator again asked Awad if he would fight on the international card.
In this instance, the question was serious and his answer was the same. Unfortunately, a fight never materialized and for the second time, Awad was without an opportunity to plant the seed of respect between the cultures that he so desired.
“Okay, would you like to go there?’ I was like ‘Of course’ and then (they) were like, ‘Yeah, right’. And then once they had the show, my name got thrown around out there and the Israelis that were out there, they said, ‘dude, you guys have to bring him out here. What do you mean?’ We’re being serious’. When the next show came about they called me to say that, they actually want you out there. Why wouldn’t they? If they are trying to really make peace, they would want somebody like me out there to put on a show, to show them that we could get along with all the fucking crisis going on there and make peace? No, it won’t but at the same time if it opens one of the right people’s eyes it could change something”.
A Fight for Change
This sentiment to spread respect and peace was where the journey looked to be an end for Awad. Past the brutal wars, memorable moments and quick finishes. The experience of bridging a gap between cultures through fighting is a worthy resting place for a championship belt he has always desired.
“Being the first to do whatever, whether its good or bad, you’re the first. You’re always going to be known for that. If that did happen I would be able to bring a little bit of awareness to the Palestinian people because I’ll be able to broaden my audience… Right now it’s unfortunate, I’m not white with blue eyes. I don’t have 100 percent of the American’s behind me. I’m not Hispanic, (or) a good looking Hispanic where I have all the Hispanics behind me. I’m a Palestinian-American that was born and raised here but I’m Palestinian. Arabs don’t have the best name right now so it’s kind of hard to push a Palestinian-American right now. When I do become champion I do believe I’ll be able to spread some awareness and open up people’s eyes to show them that were fucking pretty good people and were all American”.
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