For Canadian Ryan Ford, overcoming his past has been quite the journey. In fact, due to a four-year prison term between 2003 and 2007, the welterweight has been restricted to fighting in his native country over the course of his first 21 bouts.

However, as he prepares for his 22nd fight—and Bellator debut—on May 4, Ford revealed that despite competing in Canada once again in Rama, Ontario, he has resolved the situation and can compete stateside in the future.

“I’ve been able to fight there for a while now,” Ford told The MMA Corner. “I’ve got my passport and everything. It’s a big relief, but it was about finding the right opportunity at the right time. If it doesn’t make dollars, it doesn’t make sense.”

Ford (L) (Charles Penner/Combat Captured)

After competing in MFC, The Fight Club and Aggression MMA for the majority of his career, Ford’s opportunity came in the form of the tournament-based, US promotion, Bellator. He will be showcased on the MTV2-broadcast main card of Bellator 67.

“I’m very excited and thankful for Bellator for giving me this opportunity,” he explained. “I’m looking forward to fighting in their organization and I’d like to thank God for steering me down the right path and leading me to bigger and better things.”

Despite past indications that he might move to the US to train with King’s MMA and former Chute Boxe head trainer Rafael Cordeiro, Ford’s path has taken him to the Tristar gym in Montréal and the tutelage of Firas Zahabi.

“I have been out here training for four fights now and I feel like I’ve made a home here,” Ford claimed. “(Now that) I’m able to travel to the States, you never know what the future holds, but right now this is where I want to be.”

Having won five of his last six bouts—including finishes of UFC veterans Pete Spratt and Karo Parisyan—Ford will be facing experienced Brazilian Luis Santos in his promotional debut. The Brazilian has lost only once in the past three years, at the hands of Ben Saunders in last year’s welterweight tournament. With both fighters on recent hot streaks, Ford is expecting an explosive fight.

“His record shows 50-7, but I’m pretty sure he’s had more (fights) than that,” Ford stated. “He’s very experienced, a good striker and all-around fighter, but I feel I match up with him well. At the end of the day, there’s one goal in mind and that’s to get that W.”

Ford (MFC)

With a win over Santos, Ford may very well find himself in the next welterweight tournament. Yet, even with the prospect of $100,000 and a title shot on the horizon, that’s not what’s on his mind.

“Right now, my focus is on Luis Santos,” said Ford. “I know he’s going to come out Friday night and try to take my head off, so I have to guard my grill first. After that, whatever happens, happens.”

Although “The Real Deal” has nine finishes by (T)KO in his 17 career victories—including his last four wins—don’t expect him to be swinging for the fences against Santos. He’s ready to implement his game plan and show the rest of the world what they’ve been missing.

“I’m comfortable wherever it goes,” Ford declared. “I’ve been working on my all-around game here at Tristar with world-class athletes. No matter where it goes, I feel good about it. On fight night, I’m going to make the fight go the way I want it to go.”

Ryan would like to thank his family, first and foremost, God for sticking by his side and pushing him every day, Tristar gym, coach Firas Zahabi, all of his training partners, Kia West Edmonton, Sweet Feet Nation, G’d Up Clothing, Crooks and Castles, Kamikaze Punishment, Tattoos by Trevor, Diesel Ultra Lounge, and all of his other sponsors. Follow Ryan on Twitter: @RyanFordMMA

Top Photo: Ryan Ford has his arm raised in victory (Charles Penner/Combat Captured)