Almost any man can attempt to grow a beard. It’s not that it takes much skill. For the most part, it’s a natural part of life. The dedication in keeping it, though, that’s a whole different story.

It can be said that the “man makes the beard” and not “the beard makes the man,” but the truth is that whilst these statements may have never been uttered in the same sentence, or in fact at all, in the eyes of Brendan “War Machine” O’Reilly the latter is certainly more of a truth.

For O’Reilly, a beard says many things. It says heart, it says honor, it says “I have what it takes to break you,” and soon enough he hopes that his “Battlebeard” branding says “you are the next Ultimate Fighter.”

“[Growing the beard] was just something that I did before fights. It was kind of a way to honor the bushman attitude of ‘just getting it done,’” O’Reilly revealed in an exclusive interview with The MMA Corner. “It has kinda taken off a little now, with people all around Australia and even internationally getting behind my ‘Battlebeard’ line of shirts. I think it kind of gives me a little bit of extra cushion around my face as well, so that helps in fights [laughs].”

Having fought just six times over the span of four years, O’Reilly may not have the most active fight record on the Australian circuit. However, that time spent between fights has been far from wasted. O’Reilly is the co-owner of Gamebred Combat Club in Brisbane, Queensland, and his time has been put into developing both his team and his business.

“I’d always been naturally able to push my training as well as others,” he admitted. “I never really saw it as a coaching role and took it as more of a team captain or team leader role, and it seems to have worked pretty well with the team now.

“In previous years, I have had to balance the two, and I would just fight when I could. Now that we have built the right infrastructure with the gym, I have taken 2013 to be my year that I get back into furthering my career.”

Leading into The Ultimate Fighter: Nations trials, O’Reilly’s record couldn’t look better. With no defeats, an Australian lightweight title and exposure to fights on foreign land, he has all the right cards. All that is left is for him to play his hand.

“It’s obviously a good thing that I have fought overseas before, and it shows that I can cope with that bigger show and deal with the bigger hype as well,” he explained. “I have fought all of my fights, except for one, at welterweight. The only time that I moved down was for a title fight with Fury MMA. I am naturally pretty strong, so welterweight is the best fit for me anyway.”

Having competed successfully in Rugby League at a young age, O’Reilly had the opportunity to continue down the path that almost every Australian schoolboy dreams of at same time in their life. He could have worked hard and eventually played one of the country’s top sports in front of thousands of fans. Some sports aren’t for everybody though, and there were some things that made O’Reilly want more.

“The thing that drew me to MMA is that you can go on to build your own legacy and you aren’t just a part of a team,” he said. “I like to be able to have people identify with me specifically, and I like to always have positive messages through my social media and everything that I do in the sport. I like to think that I can positively influence another person’s life through what I do with mixed martial arts.

“My way of doing things is to show the team that they don’t have to necessarily fight a certain style to be successful. We all have different styles in the gym that complement each other. If you look at guys like Ben [Wall] and Dean [Purdon], they are completely opposite styles of fighter, and it’s a good contrast to have in the gym. The best thing about what we have [at Gamebred] is that whilst we are all a part of the team, we are all still individuals, and that is what I love about the dynamic that we have.”

For every fighter that shows up in Sydney with the ambitions of their career changing in ways they would never have imagined, there will be three that fall by the wayside. Having that little bit of uniqueness is something that can help a fighter stand out in the crowd and in effect look the part as a marketable athlete. A beard may not make a man unique, but his belief in it certainly does. And if the “Battlebeard” or his success in leading his team doesn’t help secure him a spot in Team Australia, O’Reilly’s willingness to fight anybody that is put in front of him surely will.

Brendan would like to thank Mass Nutrition Chermside & Sports Master. He would also like to thank the team at Gamebred Combat Club along with supporters of the Battlebeard. Follow O’Reilly on Twitter: @OReillyMMA

Photo: Brendan O’Reilly (Facebook)

About The Author

Staff Writer, Australia

Located in Queanbeyan, New South Wales, Neil Rooke has been writing about the sport of MMA since 2011. In the past, Neil has written for Cage Junkies and has written for Fight! Magazine as well as Fist! Fight Magazine. Neil is also a regular contributor to Fight! Magazine Australia and Yahoo! Sports Singapore.