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Brennan Ward rolling with the punches all the way to Japan for Rizin

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Brennan Ward has fought on five separate occasions at the Mohegan Sun, not far from where he grew up in New London, Connecticut. He won four of those fights, and lost once to Tamdan McCrory. Each time he fights there he brings a good portion of New England in to root for him. It is always a Brennan Ward crowd when Bellator visits the Mohegan reservation.

So when he got the call to fight in Japan on Dec. 29, on the inaugural Rizin card as a Bellator loaner, the 27-year old saw it as an adventure — something well beyond the norm.

"I want to give a shout out to Rich Chou, the matchmaker, for putting me on the card," he says. "Because, Rich recognized I worked my ass of for Bellator. I put on a show. Dude, I sell Mohegan Sun out, you know what I mean? Five times, six times in a row. So he was like, alright, alright, alright."

Ward will fight Ken Hasegawa in Saitama, a city made famous by PRIDE FC back in the day. Ward says he never watched PRIDE, and in fact, "I didn’t watch much MMA at all, and still don’t." But he likes the idea of traveling outside of his home state to compete. He likes the idea of the journey, much like Donald Cerrone, who drove his RV from Las Vegas to Orlando last week for his title fight with Rafael dos Anjos.

"It’s just will be fun, getting out of the country with my boys," Ward says. "I don’t know, I just like going on adventures man."

Here’s where Ward is a little different. He doesn’t much care who he fights, or if it’s for a title — or really if he ever fights for a title in this lifetime or the next. He doesn’t like being pigeonholed as a fighter in general. Ward is one of those guys who does it because it’s fun and he’s good at it, not necessarily to create an identity.

It’s always fun to hear him bust up clichés ahead of a fight, and then parlay his anti-programming attitude with something like superstition. Ask if by "his boys" he means the guys in his camp and you’ll find out.

"Well, I don’t like that term camp, but yeah, [I’m going to Japan with] the guys who I train with," he says. "My friends and family. I feel like camp is the lamest thing, though. ‘We’re a camp, bro.’ It’s not a f*cking camp, b*tch, a camp? It’s so annoying. I train year-round, every day. I don’t do a camp. I just fight bro. I train and fight. This sh*t has worked so far man, so I’m going to keep on doing it."

Ward doesn’t philosophize too much on his opponent — "I’ve seen a couple of videos of him, he’s a judo guy, he likes to go the ground," he says — but if you ask him about speaking his mind he will, you know, speak his mind.

"I almost go too far the other way to not do that, you know what I’m saying?" he says. "I’m trying to get…I feel like there are no other fighters in this sport like me, man. I kind of stumbled upon it. I’ll never change myself. I’ll never compromise who I truly am for MMA. Because it’s all going to be over, man.

"All of us, all the guys that are on top doing their thing, we got another four or five years max. And then you’re done. Then you’re just a f*cking has-been. So, if you define your life by it…if your sole being is, oh, you’re an MMA fighter, but when it’s over, who are you? You’re lost. I’ve never made it about that dude, I’m me. I’m Brennan Ward. Dude, I’m having fun and when it’s over, f*ck it, it’s over."

Of Ward’s 15 professional fights, only one has gone to a decision, and that was back in 2012 against Harley Beekman. His last three fights have all ended in first round finishes for "The Irish Bad Boy," two TKOs and a submission. Some of them, like his last one with Dennis Olson, were last minute opponent switches. He’s used to the names changing.

"I so don’t care who I fight," he says. "I’ve never cared bro. I fight whoever’s in front of you."

And when the music’s over, Ward says he will be fine. He is going back to school in March, to Johnson & Wales University in Rhode Island, to specialize in orchestration in sporting events and entertainment management. He won’t be a fighter who hangs around too long.

"I feel bad for [the guys who do], I feel bad," he says. "I’m like, yo, that sucks, because that guy has nothing else. He’s got no outlet. He’s got nothing else to do. His whole life has been defined as a fighter, so he’s clinging onto it with everything he’s got. It’s over dude, keep it moving. But it’s all they know, and they don’t want to let it go. Where I’ll let it go tomorrow."
Still, if Ward beats Hasegawa he will have gone 4-0 in 2015. So what are his plans in 2016?

"Just…I want to just keep having fun man," he says. "As long as it’s fun I’ll keep doing it. Win. Fight and win. If I fight for a belt, that’s cool, obviously I will want to win. I take it as it goes, man, I don’t get too crazy about it."