Saad Awad Not About to Allow Goiti Yamauchi to Turn Bellator 229 Fight into Jiu-Jitsu Match

Saad Awad Bellator 186
Saad Awad. Credit: Bellator MMA

Saad Awad learned some valuable lessons about caution in the cage following his fight with Brandon Girtz, but the plan at Bellator 229 is still to go out and “smoke his ass” against Goiti Yamauchi.

Bellator lightweight Saad Awad returns this Friday at Bellator 229, where he will take on Japanese-Brazilian Goiti Yamauchi. It’s your classic striker versus grappler bout, with Yamauchi holding eighteen submission wins.

Cageside Press caught up with Awad ahead of the fight, which will be the first of his new contract with the promotion. At 36, it seems likely that the lightweight will finish out his career with the company. It’s a sentiment Awad feels is very possible.

“I love everyone at Bellator, I love the way they treat me. I don’t see myself going anywhere any time soon,” he told us.

That kind of security it key for a father of two young children. And like Dad Cerrone, and Daddest Man on the Planet Stipe Miocic, fatherhood changed Awad as well.

“It did, it did. It motivated me to press harder. I thought things were going to get easier, but it gets harder,” he said. After a day of training, of course, there’s no taking time off from being a dad, Awad pointed out. Get home, and it’s time to be a father.

“It’s a whole new mental game for a dad. You have to be able to adapt, and push through,” he explained. Yet while it’s hard, Awad added that “I love it. I love being able to fight for my kids, I love knowing that I’m fighting for them, and pushing, and going through all the emotions.”

Awad’s son doesn’t yet know what dad does for a living, but his daughter, the older of the two, does. Calling it “boom boom boom,” she tries to mimic her dad in the gym while he’s working out. “She’s excited. She’s only been to one, but she’s excited about this next one coming up. She’s starting to understand.”

Awad’s daughter won’t be the only one cheering him on Friday. The Temecula crowd has always been hugely supportive of their local hero. Three of Awad’s last four fights have been in the Inland Empire city, and Bellator 229 will make it four out of five.

The last time Awad fought in Temecula was in March, and things did not go his way. The ‘Assassin’ was caught early by Brandon Girtz, and while it would go the distance, Awad was on the wrong end of the decision.

As a takeaway, said Awad, one thing learned was “to be a little bit more cautious. I went into that fight like I do every fight, with my own game plan about how I’m going to fight, and sharpen my own tools.” Saying he was wary not to worry too much about his opponent — “because then you fall into fighting defensively” — Awad feels he didn’t respect Girtz’s power enough.

Or, more accurately, “I wouldn’t say I didn’t respect his power, because I knew he had power. I just thought I was going to catch him before he did, and he caught me early. That kind of threw me off,” Awad said. So moving forward, the lesson learned is to “be more cautious with my strikes, so I’m not just going in there with my chin up and biting down on my mouth piece.”

That could result in a tough balancing act for a fighter using the hashtag #nomoredecisions lately. “I kind of do open myself up a lot. I’ve been a little bit hesitant lately— I wouldn’t say hesitant, I do try to finish guys, but guys have been fighting me different,” explained Awad.

His reputation has been getting out there. Opponents know he hits hard and can finish them. “I don’t like to overextend myself and just go out there and chase people around, because then I open myself up to takedowns and other things. So I think guys are learning how to fight me,” he continued. “So by them doing that, they kind of backpedal, backpedal, backpedal, and try to get me to bite, and they can shoot in or whatnot.”

At the same time, said Awad, “I hate decisions man, I really do. Even that fight, I thought I stole the fight.” Adding that he took nothing away from Girtz, who fought a tough fight, Awad said he felt like he came back and “gave everything in that fight.” Enough to win, in his opinion.

So, no more decisions, but stay cautious, against Goiti Yamauchi. No easy task.

The key to victory, Awad said simply, is to “smoke his ass, to be honest. Go out there and fight him. Don’t make it a jiu-jitsu match.” After all, he reiterated, it’s a fight, not a grappling match. “I’ve just got to go out there and make it a fight. Fight the way I fight, not fight the way he fights. I think it’ll be a good fight.”

Saad Awad faces Goiti Yamauchi in the co-main event of Bellator 229 this Friday, October 4 at the Pechanga Resort and Casino in Temecula, CA. The card airs live on Paramount Network and DAZN.