Saad Awad has been toiling in Bellator MMA’s lightweight division for more than three years now, but despite wins in four of his last five bouts, he admittedly has no idea where he stands in the title picture.
Awad will face Derek Anderson in a featured bout at Bellator 160 on Friday night at the Honda Center in Anaheim, Calif. The evening’s main card, which is headlined by a lightweight title eliminator between Benson Henderson and Patricio Freire, airs on Spike TV at 10 p.m ET/9 p.m. CT.
While a win would undoubtedly be a nice addition to Awad’s resume, again, it is unclear what it will mean for him in the division’s hierarchy.
“To be honest I have no clue. I was on a roll, but I guess the guys [I was beating] weren’t popular,” Awad told Sherdog.com. “I thought it was doing something for me and I guess it wasn’t, so I don’t know where it puts me. I’m not gonna hold my breath and hope that it puts me in position for a title shot. I do plan on going out there and making a statement. If it doesn’t put me there at least it will open up some eyes so they can be aware of where I’m at.”
Awad might have had a clearer path to a title shot had former champion Will Brooks not elected to sign with the UFC earlier this year. In his second Bellator MMA appearance in February 2013, Awad knocked out Brooks in 43 seconds — still the only loss on the American Top Team product’s ledger to this day. Although Brooks avenged that defeat with a decision triumph at Bellator 105 later that year, those who enjoy narratives with their violence might have seen it necessary for a third meeting between the two men.
With that storyline extinguished, Awad finds himself on the outside looking in — at least for now.
“We could have had a trilogy fight; it would’ve been a good story…Once he left I was like, ’S—t, now what happens?’” Awad said. “And they threw [Michael] Chandler right back in the mix. Chandler is Chandler. He’s had the attention on him for a while. And now the attention is right back on him.”
Chandler captured the vacant 155-pound strap with a resounding first-round knockout of Patricky Freire at Bellator 157. On Friday, the Henderson-Patricio Freire winner will earn the right to face the new champion at a future event. Henderson is coming off a welterweight title loss to Andrey Koreshkov, while Freire is one of the top talents in the promotion’s featherweight division.
Awad isn’t pleased that two fighters with no recent 155-pound wins are getting such an opportunity.
“My honest opinion is f—k ‘em. I don’t think any of them deserve a lightweight title shot,” he said. “I’ve put in my time. I fought some of the best in Bellator and all of a sudden you get somebody that just came to Bellator and never fought in my weight and he’s gonna get a title shot if he wins? Or you’ve got a f—-ing featherweight that’s getting a title shot if he wins. My opinion is f—k that card. I’m just trying to fight. I’m just trying to make my name and keep winning fights.
“To me it’s a slap in the face. It’s like, ‘We’re putting you on the card, you’ve been fighting for us for so long but we’re putting you on a card with two guys that are getting a title shot before you that don’t deserve it.’ To me, it’s a slap-in-the-face card.”
While the Bellator 160 headliner stirs strong emotions in Awad, he’s also smart enough to understand the logic behind the booking. He’s well aware that he isn’t the draw that Henderson and Freire are at this point. The only way to change that is to keep on winning.
“I’m not knocking Bellator for it. I understand why they’re doing it. You’ve got a guy that was the champ in the UFC and he already has a big name,” Awad said. “And people are going to tune in to watch. At the end of the day it’s about ratings. Let’s say they put me as the main event and nobody watches. Then they just wasted their money, their time, everything on somebody that brought no ratings. I’m still trying to build my name. Even though I’ve been there for a long time, my name’s not big.”