Lisa Ward never quite seemed to fit in among her childhood peers growing up. As far back as the 115-pound fighter widely considered to be among the best female mixed martial artists in the sport can remember, she always seemed to have a problem blending in.
“It was really rough because I was a little bit chunky all through elementary and junior high so I would get called “fatso”,” recalled Ward. “I remember girls poking my belly and saying, ‘Pillsbury Dough-Girl’, and then hit me in the head. I joined the soccer team when I was little and like my first day there this girl comes up to me and says, ‘Pillsbury Dough-Girl’, and then takes the bottom of her hand and hits me in the head as hard as she could.
And the torment didn’t slow up one bit once the stocky teenager made the decision to join the boy’s wrestling team in high school.
“I got harassed,” admitted Ward. “The guys didn’t take it easy on me at all. If anything, I probably got it worse because I was a girl. I was always the smaller one so I always got kind of shoved around and the guys would say, ‘Hurry up! Don’t make us run more.'”
From the wrestling mat to the hallways of her high school, Ward couldn’t seem to catch a break among those her age.
“I was tortured in school,” said Ward. “I kept to myself a lot. The boys and the girls would make fun of me because I wrestled and they would just harass me every day.
“I never really had boyfriends. I didn’t date growing up. I remember the girls would say, ‘Oh, are you going to the dance with so-and-so? Aren’t you a lesbian?’, and I would just turn around and cry. I would cry all the way home. It sucked.”
However, with a ten year high school reunion rapidly approaching for the 27-year-old , Ward would be lying if she said she wasn’t thrilled about the prospect catching up with her childhood critics, stating, “I’m going to be pretty stoked to go to my 10-year-reunion and be like, “What’s up!” I’m excited about it.”
Far separated from the years of torment as a youth, Ward is currently respected as one of the best pound-for-pound female fighters in all of MMA.
With the biggest fight of her career rapidly approaching, the Washington-based submission specialist currently has her sites set on undefeated Irish power-puncher Aisling “Ash the Bash” Daly. The pair of top women’s mixed martial artists will clash in the biggest fight of either of their careers at Bellator 26 in Kansas City to determine the final spot in Bellator’s electrifying women’s tournament.
“Aisling just seems like a bully to me,” said Ward when asked her thoughts on the powerful undefeated prospect. “She’s strong and she likes to push the pace, and I think that’s a driving force for her. Most females don’t fight like she does. She just kind of seem like a powerhouse bully. She likes to get you in the corner and rough you up and thump on you. But the caliber of the opponents that she’s been beating up have mostly been new fighters so it’s really hard to gauge exactly how good she is.”
Ward will be entering tomorrow evening’s bout with a level of confidence that can only come from testing herself against many of the best in the business for more than six years with impressive results.
“I’m pretty sure it’s going to be a reality check for Daly,” said Ward. “First of all, the little girl has to make weight, and second, she has to fight me. I’m much more well rounded. I feel like I’m pound-for-pound one of the best females in the world so it’s going to be interesting.
“I’m nervous because we’re fighting and I’m nervous because she is tough, but in the back of my mind and in my heart, I know that I’m much better than she is.”
Ward and Daly are fighting for the last remaining spot in the Season 3 Women’s Tournament semi-finals. The winner tomorrow night will join fellow semi-finalists: World’s #1 female fighter Megumi Fujii, hard-hitting Zoila Frausto, and American Top Team product Jessica Aguilar.