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Bellator 229’s Saad Awad on how to light a fire under a 13-year vet

MMA: Bellator 186-Zach Freeman vs Saad Awad Matthew O’Haren-USA TODAY Sports

“F*ck, I haven’t thought about that,” Saad Awad starts. “I have no clue. You caught me off guard.”

The question posed to the veteran was a title or theme he’d give to his training camp for Goiti Yamauchi at Bellator 229. It briefly stopped Awad in his tracks.

How do you sum up a life’s work that never really ends, and yet is crammed into two or three-month bursts of activity?

Redemption would be an easy label – two straight losses scarred his recent resume. Rescue would be another – three straight losses might endanger his career.

But Awad is working way too hard to think about any of this at the moment. Reflection time is over.

”You can kind of feel a sense of urgency,” he told MMAFighting in advance of the fight at Pechanga Resort and Casino in Temecula, Calif. “This is one of those fights where there’s not going to be no quit. ... I need this win.”

This is not the first time Awad has dropped a pair of fights. In 2009, he hit a skid where he went 1-3, losing his Bellator debut all the way back in the promotion’s 10th event.

But now, Awad is a father and a husband. He and Bellator and Awad have grown up together, and they have more responsibilities.

”I make a little bit more money,” he said. “I’ve got two kids now. I’m spending more money. I’ve got to take care of them; my daughter’s starting preschool. All that stuff comes to fruition. You think about everything.

”Before, my bills were a lot less. Now, they’re a lot more. My fight pay was a lot less. Now, it’s a lot more. So all that stuff adds up. Realizing that, it makes me train that much harder. I believe I’m too good of a fighter to be on back-to-back losses.”

Awad can pinpoint where he got off track. On a four-fight win streak, everything felt easy. Too easy, in fact, and complacency set in. Then a fight with ex-champ Benson Henderson went south, and all that momentum deflated like a baloon.

That’s how you light a fire under a 13-year veteran.

”When you felt like you were in line for a title fight, and then all of a sudden, you’re on back-to-back losses,” Awad said.

This fight with Yamauchi will be different, he said. Times are tough now, but his play is to work harder. Yamauchi probably knows a little about that, too. He is 21 months removed from a failed bid for the lightweight title in a fight against now-former champ Michael Chandler.

Awad has nagging injuries that he said will stay with him for the rest of his life. He’s not a fighter to pull out of fights. Prior to a previous fight against Brandon Girtz, he suffered a massive cut on his foot that endangered kicks. He had a doctor stitch the gash on the inside of his skin, then apply glue to the top.

Fighting is what Awad does, and he’ll do it as long as the wheels stay on. Because no matter the ups and downs of his career, his need to provide is riding shotgun to his need to prove.

”I’ve never been one to walked away from anything in my life just because s*it hit the fan,” he said. “I feel like you’re going to see an even better fighter. A fighter that doesn’t quit. A fighter that’s going to go as hard as he possibly can go to get myself back on track.”

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