When it comes to career turnarounds, SBG Ireland’s Charlie Ward is a shining example of what you can do by building a fighter the right way. Ward (9-4), a close friend and teammate of Conor McGregor, was more or less thrown to the wolves in the UFC, going 0-2, quickly bouncing out of the promotion.
The UFC’s loss has once again been Bellator’s gain, as Ward has became a solid part of the promotion’s middleweight division. He’s 6-1 as of Saturday, which saw him pick up a unanimous decision win over Andy Manzolo — a far more experienced fighter with a 23-8 record heading into the fight.
As the the third round wound down, it seemed Ward had done enough for the win — although on the broadcast, Bellator’s commentary team suggested a steal could be possible. While you never know when it comes to judging, it certainly seemed like a bit of a wild claim. Ward had clearly won the second and third rounds.
Ward agreed with that by a “million percent,” he told Cageside Press following the fight. “That’s why I wasn’t too worried about standing back up. I was like ‘look, he’s good at checking the range, I’m not going to go forward looking for that.’ I did that against Pietro [Penini Jr.], the Italian, and I got caught out there. So I wasn’t getting caught in this fight.”
Instead, Ward stayed heavy, though he had to contend with some sweep attempts. “Any time when he went for the sweep and butterfly, the energy was going out with each time,” he observed. “My knees are burned off me. It is what it is. It got me the win, that’s what I’m here for.”
The Irish middleweight summed up his performance by saying “I was looking for the finish, but I’m not going to lie, he was doing well. Distance, everything. I’m happy for the win. I’m not over the moon with it, but I won. That’s it.”
What comes next will be another fight, but you won’t hear Charlie Ward naming any names. “Everyone keeps saying ‘call this one out, call this one out,'” observed Ward, who has no interest in doing so. “I ain’t calling nobody out. Because I don’t care about nobody. So I’m not going to give them a hand, ‘oh he’s calling me [out].’ I ain’t calling nobody out.”
“Someone wants to fight me, you ask to fight me. And trust me, you’ll get to fight me,” he continued. “That’s it. I’m here to fight anybody. They’ve put the opponents in front of me every time. I’ve never in my life refused a fight.”
“I fought John Phillips, 16-3, all wins by knockout in the first round, as an 0-0-0.” That was Ward’s pro debut in 2015. Phillips was actually 17-6, a whopper of a mismatch. “So I fight anybody. Put that in your pipe and smoke it,” Ward finished.
Perhaps in the past, that willingness to fight anyone has worked against him. But Bellator have steadily built Ward up, the challenges, and records, increasing each step of the way. Which should make Ward’s next bout — whoever it comes again — a must-see.
Watch the full Bellator Europe 9 post-fight press scrum with Charlie Ward above.