On April 22, Brennan Ward will be back in the friendly confines of the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Conn., looking to put on a show for his family and his “boys.”
Ward will be looking for his fifth straight win when he squares off with veteran brawler Evangelista Santos in a featured welterweight bout at Bellator 153. Three of those triumphs -- first-round finishes of Dennis Olson, Roger Carroll and Curtis Millender -- came in his home state. More recently, he handed Ken Hasegawa his first career defeat, submitting the Japanese prospect in the second round at Rizin Fighting Federation’s New Year’s Eve event.
The Waterford, Conn., native thought his work in the Far East would have been enough to earn himself a 170-pound title shot, but that was before Bellator inked former UFC lightweight champ Benson Henderson to a multi-fight deal.
Now it’s Henderson who occupies the top spot at Bellator 153, as he challenges reigning welterweight titlist Andrey Koreshkov in the evening’s main event.
“I thought that fight was gonna be mine,” Ward told Sherdog.com. “It’ll be good. A lot of people are gonna tune in to watch it. I’m one of the guys in line for the next fight, but who knows at this point? There are so many guys in that division, so many guys who are deserving of it on paper. We’ll see what happens.”
Ward understands why Henderson skipped to the front of the line. The MMA Lab product is a more recognizable commodity than he is at this point, and the California-based promotion is in the business of putting on fights people want to see.
“I wasn’t completely surprised. I mean, it’s business. It’s business at the end of the day,” Ward said. “It’s about ratings; it’s about viewers. And you know the whole world is gonna tune in to watch that kid fight for the title, so why wouldn’t they do it?”
In the meantime, Ward will continue to build his own brand in the best way he knows how: By authoring highlight-reel finishes. He is particularly excited to have an opportunity to face Santos, a Chute Boxe representative with a penchant for standing and trading. That style could play right into Ward’s hands, especially considering that “Cyborg” counts 10 KO/TKO losses among his 16 career defeats.
“I mean, s--t, I know if I connect right on anybody they’re going out,” Ward said. “That chance is always there. I’ve got a lot of KOs and TKOs on my record. I’m sure I’m gonna add another one in this one.”
If he does, don’t expect Ward to spend much time angling for the next title shot. That just isn’t his style.
“I’m not gonna call anybody out. I’ve never been one to call people out. I just take care of business. Whoever comes my way gets it. And I’m on to the next,” he said. “I don’t really f-----g worry myself with title fights and bulls--t like that.”
However, should a potential fight with Benson Henderson come to fruition somewhere down the road, Ward is confident he would hold his own.
“I think I’d do fine. I’d do better than fine,” he said. “I don’t know what he could do to me. What could he do? What’s he gonna do? Go out there and whoop my f----ing ass? Not a chance.”
Henderson, who ended his UFC tenure with 170-pound triumphs over Jorge Masvidal and Brandon Thatch, must first take care of business against Koreshkov at Bellator 153. And Ward has to do the same in his matchup with Santos. Even then, Ward knows nothing is a given in the entertainment-driven business of MMA.
“I have to be one of the guys in line. I’m 4-0 at that weight class. There’s not many who are on a roll like that. I fought for the title before two years ago at 185,” he said. “[There are] a lot of big names at that weight class that probably have more recognizable than me and will have higher ratings than me. It ain’t always about who f---ing deserves it. It’s about who’s good for business.”