Brennan Ward says he’s always looking to finish his opponent. | Keith Mills/Sherdog.com
Brennan Ward’s journey from preliminary card prospect to middleweight title contender may have surprised some observers, but do not count the fighter among those startled by his quick ascent.
Last September, Ward was slated to compete on the Bellator 98 undercard. Instead, the 25-year-old received an invite to the Season 9 tournament after Andreas Spang withdrew at the last minute. Ward promptly finished all three of his tournament foes, capping the run with a Nov. 8 knockout of Mikkel Parlo to clinch a shot at the Bellator middleweight title.
Ward will now take a swing at reigning champion Alexander Shlemenko on Friday, when he locks horns with “Storm” in the Bellator 114 main event.
“I think [my title run] is cool. I think it’s quite nifty,” Ward told Sherdog.com on Wednesday ahead of his showdown with Shlemenko at the Maverik Center in West Valley City, Utah. “I’m not going to be like, ‘Oh, it’s so surreal. It’s so crazy.’ It happened, great. I’m here. I’m chilling, and I’m just having fun.”
Ward enters his title shot riding four consecutive wins, with his only loss coming in February 2013. According to Ward, that 15-second submission defeat served as the wake-up call that has since yielded him perfect results.
“It was a mental error. It was my first fight away from home,” said Ward. “I didn’t take it super seriously. I was kind of buying into my own bulls---t hype, and I f---ing lost.”
Ward has finished eight of his nine victims inside the distance, a fact that stems from the former NCAA Division III All-American’s conscious commitment to entertain, regardless of whether that effort results in victory or defeat.
“I don’t think any fans want to see a fighter just try to control somebody and grind out a win. That’s not fun to watch. I’ve said since the beginning that I’m going to go balls-out right away. I’m just going to try to put on a great show,” said Ward. “I feel like If I do that, then win or lose, people are going to want to watch me fight. I’m going to go out and throw bombs and go for big throws and roll for submissions. They don’t want to see [a fighter] lay on somebody for 15 or 25 minutes. That’s when you [change] the channel, and that’s not good for anybody.”
In Shlemenko, Ward faces arguably Bellator’s most violent finisher -- a champion who has stopped 29 foes via knockout. Although Ward readily acknowledges the Russian’s considerable talents, he has no plans to change his straight-ahead approach before of the biggest fight of his young career.
“He’s a great fighter. I’m a fan. When I was in school, I used to watch him on TV,” said Ward. “Now, I’m going to fight him, but I don’t have him on this huge pedestal. Yeah, he’s awesome, but I can do anything he can do. I’m going to try to push the pace and dictate what goes on and create good positions for myself. That’s pretty much it.”