Saad Awad (17-6) is a Bellator lightweight taking on Rob Sinclair (12-2) at Bellator 136. Saad Awad has been in the hurt business through Strikeforce, King of the Cage and the gauntlet of Bellator’s former tournaments. We caught up with Saad to discuss fighting style, his approach to nutrition and how he plans to give his opponent a true Bellator welcome in his promotional debut.
SF: What led you to your decision to adopt a meatless diet? How has that benefited your competitive performance?
Awad: I eat fish so I’m technically a pescatarian, but I haven’t had any meat in over 3 years. When I was still eating meat, I would have to adopt a vegetarian diet in order to make weight. If I kept meat in my diet I would have a really hard time making weight because I’m already a bigger 155’er. In order for me to make weight and really get my energy levels up I noticed I had to adapt to a vegetarian diet time after time. I said I might as well start doing this year round and I found that I had more energy, I was leaner, I put on more muscle and I was able to train harder. I don’t want to say it was just because of the diet change, but I noticed my cardio is a lot better and overall, I think better.
SF: You’re a good friend and training partner of Georgi Karakhanyan, who is also a vegetarian fighter. Did he recommend the diet to you?
Awad: Yes he’s the one who pushed me towards it in the beginning when I was having trouble making weight. I figured I had to cut out red meat because it was staying in my system the longest and slowing me down. After seeing how much easier of a time he was having with his weight cut and how much energy he would have, I didn’t understand it. When you eat meat all the time you think oh I need to eat meat, I need energy, I need protein, I need to be strong. I feel like that’s how the majority of Americans are raised and that was imbedded in my head. When I saw this guy who was a weight class below me and freakishly stronger than I was and had cardio for days, it baffled me. I tried it out and after I noticed how much it helped me get in shape I cut it out completely.
SF: What is your team at Millennia MMA doing to structure your approach against your opponent Rob Sinclair?
Awad: I’m not just a striker, wrestler or jiu-jitsu guy, I’m strong in all areas of mixed martial arts. I’m not the best, I have a lot to improve on in every aspect of the game, but for every fight I continue to do the same thing I always do. I go to jiu-jitsu class, boxing class, Muay Thai, wrestling class, I don’t switch it up. I feel like I need to get better in everything to be one of the best. I don’t switch up my training for certain opponents. Sometimes I may change my training partners if my opponent is taller or shorter. If he’s good at jiu-jitsu I may train a little more with jiu-jitsu guys but Rob’s pretty well-rounded. I will train with a little bit shorter guys like him, but I haven’t really changed my formula at all in a couple years. I still go to boxing to hit mitts 3-4 times a week, jiu-jitsu class 3-4 times a week, night training is all MMA, doing the same thing really helps me. I don’t like focusing too much on one thing.
SF: Seeing the transition from Bellator’s tournament format to matchmaking format, which do you like more as an athlete?
Awad: The way they’ve switched it up, I can’t really comment on exactly how it turned out because we just went through the change in leadership. With the tournaments, I liked it because it kept me sharp and you know if you’re fighting for a title. You know that if you win the tournament you are getting a title shot. Right now, I’ve won my last two with another fight coming up Friday but I have no idea where I stand in the rankings. I have no idea if I will get a title shot or not which, you know, right now all I care about is staying busy and if that time comes it will come. Stuff will usually fall in the right place so hopefully it will. I can’t say that I like it better this way, but at the same time the thing that sucked about the tournament was if you suffered an injury, you got screwed because you basically have one month to get ready for your next fight. I broke my hand between one of the tournaments and I had about 3 months between that time to fight again and I didn’t get a good training camp in. But it is what it is, that was the tournament format.
SF: You’re a big fan of cryotherapy for recovery treatment. What else do you like to do to stay healthy?
Awad: I love Cryotherapy. The guy that does it for me is Dan down at Polar Cryo in Irvine. When I go train in the mornings and go there afterwards, I feel great. I also take a lot of Epsom salt baths. If I’m really hurting I’ll go home and take a lot of those. Also I go to OC Fight Doc’s at Dr. Kessler’s for chiropractic adjustments, massages and use the decomp machine if my back is hurting. Whenever I have any kind of injury or I’m banged up at all, I try to go to both.
SF: There’s much more attention on the training regiment than the recovery side of athletics, but it seems like the latter is just as pivotal.
Awad: You’re definitely right on that. It’s just as important to maintain your body as it is to train hard. If you don’t maintain it, it will start falling apart. An injury can become unhealable and something you have to deal with for the rest of your life.
SF: Anything else you’d like to include for our readers?
Awad: Thanks for having me, thanks for everyone supporting me, all the guys at Millennia. My coaches, Giorgi Karahanyan and my fiancé soon-to-be wife.
See Saad Awad vs. Rob Sinclair at Bellator 136 at 7:30/6:30C on Friday on Spike.com.