By most accounts, 2015 has been a breakout campaign for Brennan Ward.
The Waterford, Conn., native is three-for-three when it comes to first-round finishes this year, and each time Ward has occupied a prominent spot on a Bellator MMA card in his home state. That track record has the 27-year-old welterweight being mentioned as a potential contender for Andrey Koreshkov’s title: Bellator President Scott Coker admitted as much during an interview with MMAJunkie.com this past October.
Despite that potentially lofty standing, Ward isn’t content to remain idle over the holidays. Instead, he will travel to Japan to face the unbeaten Ken Hasegawa at Rizin Fighting Federation's New Year's Eve event. For Ward, the decision was a no-brainer.
“Some people have been getting on me about taking this fight: ‘What if you lose, man? You might not be able to fight for the title.’ I was like yeah, but I don’t really care,” Ward told Sherdog.com. “I’d rather go and have fun in Japan and live my lifestyle of having fun and doing whatever I want to do than sit around and not take this opportunity to fight overseas on the same card as Fedor [Emelianenko] and wait for a title shot because I’m scared to lose. That’s some p---y s--t.”
Rizin’s Dec. 31 card takes place at Saitama Super Arena in Saitama, Japan, and features a heavyweight clash between Fedor Emelianenko and Jaideep Singh. The card will air on New Year’s Eve on Spike TV via tape delay beginning at 10 p.m. ET/PT.
Ward is looking forward to fighting outside of the friendly confines of the Mohegan Sun Arena and, then, after he takes care of business, partying with “the boys” on New Year’s Eve in Tokyo.
“What happens if you don’t take awesome opportunities in front of you? Then what happens? You don’t hear anyone asking that kind of s--t,” Ward said. “They just care about titles. What happens when you look back one day and you didn’t go to Japan?”
Ward won’t have to face those kind of regrets, but his opponent could pose some problems. Hasegawa is 10-0-1, with the bulk of his professional experience coming with the Japanese promotion Deep. He last competed on Feb. 28, submitting experienced veteran Ryuta Sakurai with a keylock in the opening stanza. The bout will be contested at a 187-pound catch-weight.
“I watched a couple of his fights. He doesn’t seem super aggressive on his feet as far as punches and kicks and overall aggression,” Ward said. “But he’s got good takedowns; he’s a judo guy, can lay on some guys. I think he’s just gonna try to get me down and lay on me, but I don’t think it’s gonna happen.”
Regardless of what happens, Ward appears to be a fighter who has the support of Bellator MMA. According to the man himself, that’s exactly how it should be.
“I’ve been with Bellator for years now. If theyr’e not pushing guys like me, guys who have been there since the start and who are f---ing loyal, I don’t know,” he said. “It makes sense that they’re backing me. I’ve been doing my thing for years.”