For Craig Maclean and Andrew Bard, becoming champion will mean more than just the title.
Maclean said not only would a win make him a champion, it would help set him up for potential success in bigger promotions down the road.
“I’m not the type of guy who loves to just fight regionally and wants to be a local star,” said Maclean in an interview.
“I’m 31 years old now and I’m not looking to be a popular local guy. I want to see where this takes me. I’ve got a few years left to make the big show, and that’s what the plans are.”
While Maclean is coming into this bout fresh off a quick first round knockout win at BFL 56 in July, Bard hasn’t set foot in the cage for four and a half years.
Maclean, fighting out of Aldergrove, B.C., said facing an opponent coming off such a lengthy layoff brings a strong element of the unknown into the matchup.
“Being inactive for four years, you don’t really know if he’s been actively training for those four years or taken four years off,” said Maclean.
“Looking back at old fight footage isn’t really a big thing for me on this one because a lot can change in four years. You can see his natural tendencies and things like that, but I’m not studying him too much in that sense.”
Including being the fresher fighter, all four of Maclean’s professional wins have been finishes before the third round.
Maclean said he can’t envision a scenario where Bard is able to go the distance after his layoff, and is expecting to walk away with another finish and the belt.
“I like to put a lot of pressure on, and at 135 pounds there’s not a lot of people who hit as hard as me,” said Maclean.
“If I just follow the game plan and put my hands on him, I’m going to get the finish one way or another.”
Long Road Back
Although Bard, 31, hasn’t fought since May 2014, this moment has been on his mind throughout his entire layoff.
He said he wasn’t in the right state of mind for his last few fights and decided he needed to do a complete mental reset to prepare himself for the moment that will come on Nov. 30.
“I withdrew, shutdown, went off social media, and started everything over with one thing in mind; my comeback,” said Bard in an interview.
“With this comeback being a title fight, it’s like everything’s falling into place for me. I can’t believe it’s happening like this.”
At his home gym of Champions Creed, Bard has had no shortage of elite training partners to assist in his comeback, including UFC fighter Hakeem Dawodu.
Bard, fighting out of Calgary, Alta., said being able to train with and learn from a fighter as passionate and dedicated to the sport as Dawodu has been a major bonus.
“I get as much work in with Dawodu as I can,” said Bard.
“I know the benefit of having him around, and his work ethic alone is something to keep up with. It’s almost impossible to keep up with him.”
Although his record may not jump off the page, Bard’s last three fights have been against Justin Nanaquawetung, Jesse Arnett, and Sabah Fadai, who have a combined record of 31-15. He said his losses to this trio weren’t because of his physical game, but because he wasn’t prepared mentally.
And although Bard said he hasn’t been prepared mentally for a title fight until just recently, he said he’s been physically ready for a long time now.
“The last few years have been serious mental conditioning and bringing myself right up to par with reality,” said Bard.
“I believe I’ve been ready for a title, not mentally, but physically for awhile now. I truly believe this fight is my time to shine.”
“I’d like to thank my sponsors Supplement King Chilliwack and Revolution Martial Arts. You can also check me out on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram at Craig Maclean MMA and my website www.craigmacleanmma.net.
“I’d like to thank Lens Professional and Champions Creed.”