Bellator 154: "Davis vs. King Mo" will take place this Saturday night (May 14, 2016) at SAP Center in San Jose, Calif., featuring a Light Heavyweight main event between "Mr. Wonderful" Phil Davis against Muhammad "King Mo" Lawal.
The Spike TV-televised fight card has changed several times because of the withdrawal of Josh Thomson and the unfortunate passing of Jordan Parsons. As a result, Evangelista "Cyborg" Santos will return on short notice following his submission of Brennan Ward at Bellator 153 to take on Saad Awad in the co-main event, who has not been seen since Bellator 141 in Aug. 2015. Awad will move up from 155 pounds to 170 pounds for this fight.
MMAmania.com recently spoke with Awad about his decision to step up a weight class on super short notice, but first he joined the mixed martial arts (MMA) community and Bellator MMA in expressing his shock and dismay about what happened to Jordan Parsons.
"It's one of those things that you feel like a family member went you know what I mean? When I first read the news I was like, 'Are you fucking kidding me?' He wasn't my buddy or anything but just being part of the sport for so long, being part of the organization, and being hungry just like we are as an up-and-comer it hurt man. It hurt."
There is some justice for Parsons, though, as the alleged driver who mowed him down is now behind bars. Meanwhile, Awad says his time away before facing Santos in this Saturday night was because of an injury.
"I broke my left hand about two minutes into the first round (with Freire). So I had to kind of fight around it, which kind of sucked, but that's what happened in my last fight."
Once that break healed up and Awad could start training at Millennia MMA again, he was chomping at the bit to get another opponent as soon as possible.
"I started calling Bellator saying, 'Hey give me a fight give me a fight.' They said, 'All the cards are full, but it might be in a couple of months.' So I told them, 'Listen I'm tired of hearing that' and they said, 'Okay we're looking at July you're gonna come back.' I said, 'If something comes around at 170 I'll take it.' I'm not gonna be like these guys that just sit back and try pick their fights and win it. If the fight makes sense at 170 I'll take it."
Awad may have already been mentally prepared to move up, but the numbers show the reason(s) it "makes sense" in this case -- Santos is 5'10" with a 72-inch reach and Awad is the same height with a 73.5-inch reach.
"People that have fought me didn't realize how big I was until they got in the cage. They're like, 'Holy shit this dude's a big lightweight.' My teammates obviously know how big I am for lightweight. I've fought at 170 before -- I fought at 185 when I first started you know what I mean? I'm not afraid of it. I'm gonna go up and do my thing."
Intentionally or accidentally, Awad may also have thrown a little shade at Santos while comparing their stature.
"I'm looking forward to it. I know he's not a big (1)70 pounder. He used to be bigger, but I don't know, he shrunk in size for some reason, but now he's fighting at 70 and he's not very big any more so we'll see how it plays out."
It's true that Santos was a Light Heavyweight in his Cage Rage and Pride FC days, but he's been fighting at Welterweight since knocking out Marius Zaromskis in 2010. Awad feels prepared whether Santos looks for a knockout or another submission.
"I never started off as just a jiu-jitsu guy or just a stand-up guy. The gym I went to was a MMA gym when I first started. I did have a wrestling background so that did help me, but I've always been in a MMA gym. I've never went to a straight Muay Thai gym or a straight wrestling gym so that's why I'm comfortable on the mat, I'm comfortable on my feet, I'm comfortable wherever the fight goes."
Chief among Awad's motivation to take the fight on short notice is his "no regrets" philosophy about living life.
"I don't want to be that guy that retires and says, 'I should have took this fight, should've took that fight.' I want to be that guy that people look back and say, 'Man -- you remember when he had that war with Cyborg? You remember when he fought this guy and they went toe to toe and he came out on top?' I want to make as much money as I can in the sport, get out halfway healthy, and still have fights to look back on I can be proud of."
At 18-7 with a knockout of Will Brooks on his record, there's little doubt Awad can be proud of his career to date; however, beating a Santos on the same night his ex-wife debuts in UFC would be one more notch on his belt.
"You know it's funny I just saw that yesterday and, oh man, now that they're not together any more they're probably in competition. They're both buying the same car, they both want to win, so it's going to be interesting. We hope she does well and not him right?"
MMAmania.com will be the place to find out how Awad -- and the "Cyborgs" -- perform this weekend.
Complete audio of our interview is below and complete Bellator MMA coverage can be found right here on fight night.