Brennan Ward would just as soon forget 2014. After starting his career 9-1, he dropped consecutive fights, leaving some to wonder whether or not he had hit his ceiling as a mixed martial artist. He was choked out by Alexander Shlemenko in the second round before being knocked out in 21 seconds by Tamdan McCrory.
Ward recalibrated his training and downshifted to 170 pounds, giving rise to a quick turnaround. The Connecticut native will carry a two-fight winning streak into his Bellator 144 co-main event with Dennis Olson on Friday at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Conn. However, Ward finds himself in what he sees as an undesirable position.
“I hate being the favorite going in because you’re expected to win,” Ward told Sherdog.com. “It’s really a lose-lose situation because if you lose, you just lost to some [expletive] dude you were supposed to beat.”
Ward enters as a substantial favorite against Olson, a veteran who has been around the block a few times. However, Olson has compiled a 3-6 record across his last nine outings and finds himself on the rebound following a technical knockout loss to Paul Daley at Bellator 140 in July. Still, he has Ward’s respect.
“He’s a veteran; he’s a tough kid,” Ward said. “He’s fought some of my boys, and I think he just got his black belt [in jiu-jitsu], so he’ll be tough on the ground.”
It seems logical to assume that Olson will fight with a certain amount of desperation as a fighter who will stop at nothing to get his career back on track. He cannot afford another loss. A Team Triumph representative, Ward stays in shape between fights and credits his success to the work he puts in while training. He learned a valuable lesson in his loss to McCrory. It was a wake-up call.
“I train year-round [now], no matter what,” Ward said. “I help coach my old wrestling team, and I’m always training, day in and day out. I lead a very active lifestyle because I’m always surfing, skating, doing CrossFit and whatever else on top of my fight training. I’m not your typical fighter who is like, ‘Oh, I’m in my eight-week camp.’ Whatever, bro. I’m always training. At any time of the year, you come find me and I’ll be in better shape than these dudes who are three, four weeks out from a fight. That’s the life I live, and I enjoy being in shape. I never, ever blow up in weight between fights. I don’t do the traditional camps these other fighters do.”
Given the success he has enjoyed since dropping to 170 pounds, Ward believes it is only a matter of time before Bellator MMA gives him a crack at its welterweight elite.
“I think I’m ready now,” he said. “I fought the best at 185, so I don’t see how I’m not ready for the best at 170. Bellator hasn’t given me any indication as to when, but I imagine it can’t be too far away.”