Bellator lightweight Saad Awad has spent the better part of the past four years doing everything in his power to knock opponents out. He has thrown down in multiple weight classes against high-level opposition in an effort to put on exciting fights while continuing his pursuit of the Bellator title that has so far eluded him.
Awad returns to action this Friday (April 21) at Bellator 178 in a fight against Ryan Quinn, who is undefeated with a record of 7-0 in the promotion.
Here, speaking with Tony Reid, Awad talks about the match-up, his fight-finishing mentality and what it was like growing up with 11 siblings.
Tony Reid: You are facing Ryan Quinn, who is undefeated with a Bellator record of 7-0. How do you plan on giving him his first loss in the promotion?
Saad Awad: I think he’s a tough man and an experienced fighter. I’m looking to outpoint him wherever the fight goes, but in the end I am definitely looking for the finish.
TR: You grew up with 11 siblings. What was your house like to live in with all that action?
SA: It was non-stop. You could never just sit down and watch a TV show you were expecting to watch. It didn’t matter if you got in there first or if you got in there and someone was watching something before you. I usually ended up watching what my sister or my brother was watching. I had to share a room with my brother. I loved video games but if he didn’t want me playing video games I wasn’t playing video games. He bullied me a little bit growing up. He outweighed me by 60 or 70 pounds. It was rough but it was good.
TR: You use the hashtag ‘I Finish Fights’. Where does that mindset – and skill-set – to go out there and finish fights come from?
SA: It just came naturally. We train so hard, so long, for one fight. Then finally the cage door closes and you are locked in there with a man who wants to hurt you. The longer I’m here, the more chance he has to hurt me. I have it in my head that I am going to try to hit him as hard as I can and take him out of there as quickly as I can. That’s always been my game plan and it has worked the majority of the time. I have a lot of first round finishes. My finish rate is really high and I plan on keeping it that way. I think my fighting style makes me who I am.
TR: You gave Will Brooks his first loss, but the fight of your career, your favourite, was the Evangelista ‘Cyborg’ Santos scrap. What was special about that fight?
SA: It kind of was do-or-die. For me it was but, from a fan perspective, it definitely wasn’t. They would say I won four out of my last five. I was jumping up in weight class. If I lost, no big deal. But what people don’t know is that was my last fight on my contract. Bellator were cutting a lot of guys. They were cutting a lot of guys that weren’t active or weren’t exciting. If you go back, I am an exciting fighter, but three of my last five weren’t overly exciting. I had a few decisions in that stretch but I wasn’t really making any noise with it. I was happy but nobody gives a shit about points decisions. Now I lost a boring decision on the main card. Now I’m that guy who’s not exciting anymore. They are probably paying me more than they should and now I want a new contract for more money? That doesn’t make sense for them. That’s what I was told on the other end. I was like, fuck, I have to go out there and do something. I was offered the fight and I went out there and fought the way I fight. I was going to get the contract I want. Now I’m here with a four-fight deal.
TR: Is there a pressure that builds when, as a finisher, you haven’t finished a few in a row?
SA: There definitely is a pressure there. That’s been my style. With two of my more recent fights where I didn’t get the stoppages, one of the guys ran from me the whole time. The other fighter I dropped him three or four times in the fight. It felt great to get the finish of Santos, for sure. In my head, if I don’t knock an opponent out clean I want to punish him. If I didn’t sleep these guys I wanted to go out there and punish them for three rounds. From now on I’m going out there and fight for that first round finish.
TR: You had an interesting introduction to the MMA world. Can you tell us the story?
SA: I had moved back to my dad’s house in Hisperia, which is the middle of nowhere. My little brother was getting into a lot of trouble – he was 13 or 14 – and he was always fighting. I wanted to take him to a boxing gym. At the time MMA was small, you couldn’t find an MMA gym for hours. I didn’t even think about fighting at an MMA gym. I looked in the phone book for a boxing gym. An image pops up of Philip Miller standing there with a belt around his waist. It said ‘come train MMA’. It said something about ‘King of the Cage’. I took him there. It was right around the corner from my dad’s house. I went to sign him up. He said I wasn’t going to just sign him up and leave. I asked him what he (brother) wanted me to do. He said he wanted me to stay and train with him. I went and signed both of us up. It was a small class with all professional fighters in it. One thing led to another and now we are here.