Brennan Ward Details Fight With Addiction Before Bellator 274

Brennan Ward is locked in the fight of his life.

Ferocious, unrelenting and always lurking, Ward’s opponent is addiction.

“Oxy[codone], fentanyl,” says Ward. “When you’re in its grip, you’ll do anything to get high. When you’re in the throes of addiction, all f—— bets are off.”

For the first time since August 2017, Ward returns to the cage this Saturday. He fights on the Bellator 274 prelims in a catchweight bout against Brandon Bell, which will air on the Bellator MMA YouTube page.

Once considered a rising star for the promotion, Ward (14–6) competed for the Bellator middleweight title in 2014. Dynamic and fearless in the cage, Ward went undefeated in four fights throughout ’15. But as the calendar turned to ’16, his addiction became too much to sustain a lifestyle as a mixed elite martial artist. He split his two bouts in ’16, then got outclassed in two fights in ’17 before becoming completely undertaken by addiction.

“Addiction changes a man,” says Ward. “It makes you reckless. I’d be driving down the f—— highway sniffing dope off my phone. That’s putting myself and all these other people at risk. I’ve known guys that stooped to the lowest levels possible to get drugs. I always worked 12-hour days to support my habits, but you do things you’d never do when sober. You turn into a different human being.”

A union carpenter, Ward used his day job to fund his habit. It gnawed at him that he stopped fighting during what should have been the prime of his career, but he was trapped by an opponent that would not loosen his hook.

“That ate at me,” says Ward. “I was given this gift as an athlete and an entertainer, and I’d be working all day and then blowing my paycheck on my addiction. I wasted my talent; I wasted my potential.

“Being a drug addict, there’s nothing more selfish than that. My daughter is the reason why I kicked this in the a–. She counts on me and her mom for everything.”

Brennan Ward will fight for the first time since August 2017 at Saturday’s Bellator 274.

Sitting beside his 2½-year-old, Ward expressed honesty in detailing how there is no easy solution to breaking addiction. And as much as he relishes being a parent, he admitted that not even fatherhood has stopped his constant battle with drugs.

“I take such pride in being a good dad,” says Ward. “Any moment I’m not at work or in the gym, I’m with my daughter. We were just at the park, and you can’t do that when you’re getting high. I missed the first year of her life because I was still getting high. I feel so much guilty for that, still. I was there, but I wasn’t.”

After a 2016 incident in which he resisted arrest while intoxicated, Ward spent 120 days in prison. He served his sentence in a stretch that ran through December ’19, which was his daughter’s first Christmas.

“We were on lockdown,” says Ward. “I was sitting in my bunk, feeling like a f—— scumbag. The majority of guys had families, and it was a real quiet, summer day. Everyone in there was feeling guilty. That’s when I knew that s— had to stop. When I got out in early 2020, I went back to rehab again—and that still didn’t stop me. I got f—– up.

“Since 2018, I’ve been to four inpatient rehabs and a bunch of outpatient rehabs. I’ve been trying. It’s hard, especially when you’ve used as long as I have with the amount of success that I had. Look at it this way—for years, I still fought. I still had money. I used with success. People are going to think, ‘He used with success?’ But I did. I didn’t die, and I maintained my life while using, so it was really hard to stop. I thought I was a f—— pro drug addict. If it wasn’t for my daughter, I wouldn’t be alive.”

When asked, Ward could not share his sobriety date. “I slipped up a little bit in the beginning,” he shared. Honest to a fault, Ward knows his fight is ongoing—and if he makes a mistake, it is likely to cost him his life.

“To be clean for a couple months and go get a bag from some dude, and you don’t know who the f— he is because you haven’t used in a while, that s— could drop you dead ,” says Ward. “But you’ll drop that line. You know you could die, but you do it, anyway.

“I’ve relapsed a million times over the years. You know going into it, ‘This could be bad.’ That crosses my mind when I’m dumping that bag out on my phone. ‘This could be it. I could die right now.’ But you want to get high so bad that you don’t f—— care.”

Fairy-tale endings are rarely part of the script when battling addiction. In lieu of a happy ending is heartache, frustration, and guilt—both for those struggling with addiction and the weight it places on family and friends. Yet Ward is powered by an incredible motivation. He is fighting for those that cannot. Those who have lost their lives. Those who feel their lives are already lost.

Ward’s return represents far more than a catchweight bout on a prelim card. One day at a time—amidst the dark thoughts and temptations—he is attempting to rewrite his narrative. No longer in search of his next high, Ward is carried by a fighting spirit for those who are lost in addiction and the chance to be a voice for those whose lives ended too soon. He is representing those who made a fatal mistake, leaving their loved ones behind in a world of perpetual pain.

“I was as bad as it gets,” says Ward. “I’m showing you can come back from this. That’s who I’m doing this for, for anyone who needs to see that it can be done.”

Thinking back to friends with lives that ended too soon and without dignity, Ward will boldly and emphatically walk to the cage Saturday to prove that addiction can be beaten.

“I’ve already f—— won,” says Ward. “I’m a fentanyl user—and I’m back. So f— the idea that you can’t do this. You can. I want to be a symbol for those who are lost. You can come back. That’s bigger than the f—— cage. I’m talking about in life. In f—— life.

“I’m clean. I’m sober. I’m fighting on Saturday. I’m aware of what I’m doing, and I am very proud of those I’m representing. I know who I’m fighting for, and I know what I’m going to do for them—I’m going to f— a lot of people up.”

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Justin Barrasso can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @JustinBarrasso.

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