Are fans in for another Ben Saunders bloodbath at Bellator 49? | 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.
Well, I finally boarded my plane to Atlantic City, N.J. Due to weather issues, my flight got pushed back about two hours. I hate airports and flying, but it’s part of the game, so I take it in stride. Originally, I got seated next to an old guy who was all about picking his nose. Seemed like a coal miner; it was pretty disturbing.
However, I told the flight attendant if they had an Emergency Exit seat available, I’d be happy to save everyone’s life if we had an emergency. She laughed, and, lucky for me, there was one open, so now I am sitting with more leg room, thank god. These planes just aren’t made for us tall, lanky folk. My camp is over, and I couldn’t be happier with how it went. I feel very well-prepared. My weight is good, so I’ll begin my cut on Thursday night and finish it up on Friday.
This is what I like to call the “Fight before the Fight.” It’s never fun making weight, but everyone does it. It’s a part of the sport, and knowing my opponent has to endure the same pain helps big time. Everyone always wonders and asks how the hell I make 170 pounds. My answer is I was blessed with a fast metabolism, great sweat glands and a unique body, I guess.
I usually arrive at the weigh-ins and witness what looks to be everyone else around me dying. Maybe it’s my mentality, even if my body feels like death, but I feel I am able to mentally block it out and think about the enjoyment of being able to fight the next day. This makes such a horrible situation seem much more positive. Once I weigh in, that’s when I really light up. Not only do I get to rehydrate and carb up, eating and drinking everything in sight, but the real joy comes from knowing I’m just 24 hours away from stepping back into that cage. That is probably when I am the happiest in my life. It is the only time I get to actually see what I’m capable of.
When I train every day, I have to hold back. I never get to actually flip the switch and turn on my “Sadistic Killer Mentality.” In the cage, I have no shin guards, no knee pads and I get to literally try to destroy whoever is standing across from me without any hesitation. Plus, knowing it’s legal and I will serve no jail time makes for a very pleasant experience in my mind. When I train, I never want to seriously hurt or injure my teammates. We are there to help each other and better ourselves. We train hard but smart, and that makes all the difference in this sport and the longevity of our careers.
Sparring should be more about technique, distance, timing and staying sharp mentally, even while feeling exhausted. Some people like to go crazy, balls to the wall, and actually really fight. That, in my opinion, is stupid and what I call the “Skitzo” method. It can be effective, but it isn’t always the smartest way to train. It’s funny because we all -- my team and I -- made a list of “Skitzos” on the team, and it seems we have a full house. Hence our personal team title of “The Goon Squad.” I would definitely say I am the most reserved of the bunch, but I love my team and wouldn’t want it any other way. Bellator 49 is on this Saturday, and I plan to make it worth your time. Make sure to watch the beginning of Bellator’s fifth season on MTV2 and Epix HD, live at 9 p.m. ET.
Growing up, I witnessed some really crappy fighters compete in MMA claiming jeet kune do, and they just got embarrassed and stomped. It was so disturbing to watch. Erik Paulson was the only fighter I can remember actually being a complete bad ass. To this day, I think he is one of the greats and hope to one day get the time to go train with him for a bit. I’ve met him once or twice and he seems cool as hell; pretty damn funny, too. However, everyone else just got destroyed.
Trust me, I know all the technical arguments about JKD being made for practical self-defense. With the way the rules are in MMA, the ban on eye gouging, biting, fish hooking and groin strikes takes away a huge amount of effective JKD tactics and strategies, but the philosophy and concept is to be able to adapt to any situation, to “Be Like Water.” In my opinion, competing in MMA is the safest legal way to test your fighting skills. So, if all you have in your fighting arsenal that is effective for you are those techniques, then fighting in a pro MMA fight probably isn’t smart, unless of course you like the competition and the chance to test yourself.
If that’s the case, then adapt to the rules and train for the appropriate situation and competition. I still get disappointed when they get smashed and JKD and Bruce Lee get questioned as not being legit or relevant. It’s honestly heartbreaking. When I get that belt, everyone will know how I achieved it. Bruce Lee, in my opinion and like UFC President Dana White has said, is the father of mixed martial arts. If it wasn’t for him, martial arts in America would have never been as big as it is today and would have taken a lot longer to come close to where we are now.
Bruce Lee was teaching foreigners before anyone was, before it was accepted and allowed. He had to fight through tradition that has been around for centuries and broke the boundaries by questioning everything they stood for. Wondering how one style could possibly be the best, ultimate or complete martial art style over any other sounded absurd to him. The man was way ahead of his time and was the defining figure in cross training, also incorporating different sports and athletic strength, conditioning and nutritional techniques in order to achieve full body physical output potential. At the time, that was unheard of in martial arts. The 1970s and 1980s martial arts craze here in the U.S. probably would have never happened if not for him, which means the UFC would never have even been marketed and produced in 1993. That clearly means MMA as we know it might not have ever happened or would have taken forever to make it where we are today.
Also, let’s be honest, America impacts the world and a lot of times what becomes popular and mainstream here usually becomes popular and mainstream in other parts of the world that otherwise would have never given it a chance. I’m not saying the U.S. is better than anywhere else, by any means, I just feel we have a major impact on the world. I think the world pays a little more attention to the U.S. and what is going on over here than maybe other parts of the world.
At the end of the day, I will admit I am here to represent myself, but I feel there is much more to me than meets the eye. When I become a champion, I want the world to know that I am not just some meathead who punches people in the face for a living. I am an individual. I am unique. I am one of a kind. I am the kid who knew since 10 years old what he wanted to be, and, even without any support or help, I accomplished my goals and dreams. I fought through the trials and tribulations life kept throwing at me. No matter how bad life got or how dark situations and circumstances seemed, I stayed focused and persevered, fighting my way through it all. I dug myself out of the trenches and climbed to the top. I never quit, and that’s why I made it. I am going to be that guy, possibly a role model to some kids and people who feel the same way or have gone through the same struggles. I hope they can look at me and my life and say, “See, if he can do it with all that he has been through and all that he had to fight through, all those hard times, and he pushed through it all. He never gave up, and he made his dreams a reality.” I want to be that Cinderella Man. I’ll be that story. I want to be able to tell them, “Keep at it kids,” because that story is real. That story is me.
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 my chiropractors, Dr. Brent Baldasare and Dr. Michael Rudoni, and the whole team at Affinity Health & Wellness Center for sponsoring and supporting me and my career. You guys are the best. I manipulate my body, neck and spine out of place on a daily basis. That’s the whole point of what we do in order to get a tapout. You guys constantly manipulate my body back to the way it is supposed to be. In this grueling and, at times, unforgiving sport of MMA, I feel a good chiropractor is a must. You guys help keep me in tip-top shape and ready to work harder and longer every training session. For this, I thank you all very much. I also want to thank my other sponsors: DOM Fight Gear, Intimidation, Veneratio, Hooligans United and Lexani. Thank you guys so much for your support and for believing in me and my skills. It is an honor to represent you all. Everyone make sure to check them out.
Finally, I want to thank Shannon Lee and her family for not only being awesome and amazing human beings but for working so hard every day to constantly do everything they can to represent Bruce Lee and his style, art, concepts and philosophies to the world. There are a lot of new people getting into martial arts and MMA that don’t realize the impact Bruce has made on this world. Thank you guys for keeping his legacy alive. You can find out more information and stay up to date by following her on Twitter @BruceLeeLegacy and on Facebook or the official website.