Ben Saunders is prepared to show his newly sharpened skills. | Photo: Dave Mandel
American Top Team fighter Ben Saunders (www.twitter.com/bensaundersMMA) will blog his thoughts and experiences for Sherdog.com as he takes part in Bellator Fighting Championships’ fifth-season welterweight tournament, which kicks off with Bellator 49 this Saturday, Sept. 10, on MTV2 at 9 p.m. ET/PT.
Potentially fighting three fights in three months is something that could be straight out of a movie. It brings me back to the good old days when tournaments were the norm, rather than something that seems to be obsolete in modern MMA.
I’m fired up to be part of Bellator’s fifth season and to fight in their welterweight tournament. I honestly feel this tournament is stacked with talent and there is no doubt in my mind that this will be the hardest test I have ever faced in my career. Not only is this a huge honor, but it is the challenge I have always wanted and somewhat felt would be a part of my career since watching MMA when it first began. I may have been a little kid when I first thought of this, but nonetheless, being involved in a tournament has always been on my “to do” list. I’m very grateful to have the chance to really see what I can accomplish in my lifetime.
Now, with that being said, I also realize how crazy this might seem to some people. The tournament is definitely not the healthiest approach to someone’s career or body. It could easily go very, very wrong. But I am not a normal person with normal thoughts and opinions. So, to me, this is what life is all about. Obstacles that many may see as impossible, I see as opportunities.
My first-round opponent in the tournament was originally supposed to be Rick Hawn, a very tough and gritty former judo Olympian. He’s a very talented fighter who has yet to be finished in his 12-fight career. With stats like that, I was really excited and looking forward to attempting to be the first man to accomplish a knockout or submission against him. He trains with Mark DellaGrotte at Team Sityodtong, so I knew he was going to come into the fight in great shape, well-prepared, and with a good game plan. It was just the fight I was looking to start with as I made my run for the Bellator belt.
Unfortunately, injuries are a part of the game in this sport and so are opponent changes. Hearing that Hawn got injured really bummed me out, not only because I feel I missed out on a great test and challenge, but also because I have been there and it sucks. I hope he has a quick and full recovery, ‘cause when you put everything you have into being a pro fighter and it’s your full-time job, this is our only form of income. Not getting paid and not working causes stress that no one is ever happy about. So, Rick, heal up, my friend, and I look forward to seeing you back in action ASAP!
My new opponent is going to be a tough and scrappy Hawaiian named Chris Cisneros. On top of a 13-3 pro record, he also has impressive kickboxing and boxing credentials. Coming out of Hawaii, you know he is gonna be a very game opponent with no hesitation on standing and banging with the best of them. I bet he probably has the love and support of the whole island behind him, which potentially makes for a very prideful and extremely dangerous opponent. Lucky for me, I love a good challenge and am always down for a good scrap. I am just as honored and excited to fight Chris as I was to fight Rick.
My training camp in preparation for this tournament has been great! I feel I am in phenomenal shape; my technique, distance and timing are all on-point. I have killed myself for years in martial arts and competitions to make it where I am today, and I feel my experience is gonna play a huge factor. I have fought some of the best fighters in the world, beating some and losing to some, but I have learned a lot and gained from the best of them. I have upped my game, diligently improving my weaknesses while refining my strengths. I feel that the traits I may have lacked in my past fights -- for instance, takedown defense, wrestling, and advanced, aggressive, offensive jiu-jitsu off my back -- have all been improved by leaps and bounds.
I know that my skills and who I am as a fighter may still hold question marks to some. I am not naive and don’t expect anyone to change their thoughts or opinions without proof. So, this is my chance. This is my time to shine, my time to prove to the world that I am gonna be one of the greats. I am not a one-trick pony. I may have what people consider a devastating and lethal clinch, but that isn’t all I possess. But I’m also smart enough to utilize what works, and I don’t see any reason to go out of my way to show off my improvements just to make a statement, although I have improved to the point where I have many more options to utilize.
I want to be unpredictable. If what I do is predictable but effective, then so be it. If it’s not, then I got much more in my bag of tricks for all who are up for the challenge. I am a complete fighter. I am a mixed martial artist.
I represent Bruce Lee’s “Jeet Kune Do” concepts because I think it is the greatest philosophy to train, fight and live by. The man was a genius and I made a promise to myself when I was a little kid that I would prove to the world that this man needs to be acknowledged and given the credit and respect he deserves. He is without a doubt the reason I am where I am today, and the reason I am who I am today. I am a true martial artist! It is not just about fighting for me; this is a way of life. I utilize these concepts and philosophies every day outside the gym and cage just as much as I utilize them inside. When I step into that cage, I feel I am in there representing so much more than just myself. I am representing my family, my friends, my true fans who believe in me and support me no matter what, and above all, I feel I am in there to represent JKD and Bruce Lee’s legacy.
To all my fans, I want to thank you guys most of all. You’re the ones that have stuck by me and believed in me throughout my career, especially during my most depressing and dark times after a loss or when I got cut from the UFC. You guys seriously inspire me to better myself on a daily. You help make all my hard work and exhausting workouts to up my game, in order to be the best damn fighter I can, well worth the effort. I appreciate the support more than you will ever know, and for this I thank you all again.
To all the fans of the sport who don’t know who I am, I thank you guys for helping MMA become one of the fastest-growing sports in the world. Anyone that would like to keep in touch and stay up-to-date with my fights, training and progress can follow me on Twitter (@bensaundersMMA). You can also friend-request me on Facebook and please “Like” my Facebook fan page.
I want to thank everyone at American Top Team -- attorlando.com and americantopteam.com) -- Paul Rodriguez, Bobby Robare, Ricardo Liborio, Dan Lambert and all my teammates for all their help preparing me for this tournament and all my other fights.
I want to thank my sponsor, Yoked Up Apparel, for their support leading into this tournament as well. Anyone and everyone looking to show their support and represent, you can pick up your official Ben “Killa B” Saunders walk-out t-shirt on their website. It is badass and I helped create it. The quote on it is taken from one of my favorite lines of all time, straight out of the movie “Friday,” so make sure to order one today! Also, follow them on Twitter (@YokedUpApparel).
I also want to thank my friends at TSM Studio. They are amazing and I definitely recommend them to anyone needing any kind of website or multimedia projects done. Their work is incredible! They are extremely professional and some of the coolest and most down-to-earth people I know. Go to bensaundersmma.com to check out what they have put together for me and if you feel the Yoked Up shirt might be too graphic or mature for you or your kids, you can always purchase some KB wear off my website.