Brennan Ward nostalgic for Bellator, but ready to wreak havoc in $1 million PFL season

Brennan Ward is no longer a Bellator-branded fighter.

For the first time in over a decade, Ward (17-7) is actively competing, but not under the Bellator banner. A staple of the promotion, Ward debuted at Bellator 81 in 2012. He competed 19 times for the promotion over the 12 years, though five he was inactive as he temporarily retired to battle drug addiction.

Coming off a loss to Logan Storley in August, Ward was eager to fight again as soon as injuries healed. When it came time to step back in the cage, however, things were a bit murky. Bellator was purchased by PFL. With fighters spread across the two brands, Ward wasn’t sure where – if anywhere – he was going to fit in.

“I was getting antsy, dude,” Ward recently told MMA Junkie. “I was working. I was half-working, half-training, waiting for something to come up. I told my manager. He was like, ‘Give me until Friday. Give me until Friday,’ like three or four weeks in a row. Then, I was like f*ck it, dude. I had to go back to work. I was back in work for a while, then I got the call.

“We didn’t really know what the f*ck was going on. I said, ‘Just ask for a release then. See if we can get out of this whole thing and go to ONE or go to the UFC or just get the f*ck out of there.’ They were like, ‘Well, do you want to go in the tournament?’ I was like, ‘When’s the tournament?’ He was like, ‘It’s in a month.’ I was like, ‘Perfect. Let’s go.’ F*cking perfect.”

Ward was offered an opening in the 2024 PFL welterweight season, which begins Friday when he battles former UFC fighter Don Madge (10-4-1) at Wintrust Arena in Chicago.

Halfway through his first onsite fight week under the new regime, Ward expressed the strangeness of new faces, routines, and protocols, as well as the nostalgia about the old ones. The most appealing tweak, Ward sees, is certainly the potential prize pot at the end of the playoff rainbow.

“That ($1 million prize) is a good one, man,” Ward said. “Hopefully that ends up attracting more dudes to the PFL. If I end up staying here with the PFL, because it’s tough … I’ve got to almost say it … it’s tough with this league. At least Bellator had some swag. Bellator knew we were never going to be the UFC, so we never tried to be the UFC. We were our own thing. It’s like the X-Games and the Dew Tour. Nobody is going to ever be the X-Games, but the Dew Tour is f*cking swag, bro. Bellator had its swag. We didn’t have to wear uniforms. We got to be individuals. It was a mom-and-pop-type company. It was f*cking sick. Now, with the PFL, I feel like they’re trying so hard to be like the UFC.

“But now they’re offering this big bonus. So hopefully some more dudes with some swag come over here. So if I do stay here, I can grow and get some clout and get some recognition. Because there’s some good fighters and it sucks nobody knows about the PFL. I took a lot of pride in Bellator because everybody knew Bellator. Everyone knew Bellator was its own thing. It was never going to be the UFC. But we had some swag over with Bellator. We had some swaggy fighters. It was legit. … It’s weird. I just had it so good at Bellator. That was home. That was f*cking home. Now with PFL, it’s all new people.”

In order to cash the biggest checks possible, Ward will try to max out his regular season points – something he thinks will come natural due to his fighting style and willingness to gun for finishes.

Madge is his first test, but Ward has his eyes on everyone from Shamil Musaev (whom he said he engaged with in a verbal altercation this week), to old Bellator pals Neiman Gracie and Andrey Koreshkov, to Storley, the man who most recently defeated him.

“I’m going to go in and do what you do. You’re rewarded for finishes in this tournament. If you get them out of there quick, you get six points. Second round is five points. So I’m going to rack up some bonus points. … I think the top dudes in the tournament are the Bellator dudes. … There’s nobody in the tournament who I’m like, ‘Oh, f*ck, I don’t want to fight this guy.’ I know I’m capable, if I show up, of beating anybody in this tournament – and finishing anybody in this f*cking tournament.”

The 2024 PFL welterweight talent pool appears at face-value to be stylistically grapple-heavy. While he’s known for his banger bouts, Ward has a wrestling background. Pair that with being completely healthy for the first time in over a year, Ward thinks the rest of the division is in for a rude awakening.

“For a tournament, I’ll take a bunch of dudes who want to go to the ground,” Ward said. “My wrestling is good, bro. Logan took me down. F*ck, whatever. But I stuffed a couple of his takedowns, man. Not until the second round did he take me down and was able to finish me off. I hope we get to run that back so f*cking bad, now that I’m healthy. When I fought Sabah (Homasi), I had just got done with a groin tear. I was barely able to do any running for that fight or any really crazy sparring for that. For Logan, my elbow was f*cked up and I tore my bicep.

“I’m 100 percent right now, dude. All my injuries are healed. So if these dudes want to try to take me down and go to the ground, I’m stuffing your sh*t. I’m bombing you out. I’m in a good spot to really f*ck some people up right now.”

For more on the card, visit MMA Junkie’s event hub for 2024 PFL 3.

Story originally appeared on MMA Junkie