Ben Saunders has been on quite a roller coaster of late.
After a heartbreaking loss to Mike Swick at UFC 99, he responded with the biggest win of his career to date. He knocked out Marcus Davis at UFC 106 courtesy of some of his patented clinch work.
Martin Kampmann, a consensus top-10 welterweight, was the reward for his dominating performance over "The Irish Hand Grenade." Unfortunately, due to a cut sustained in training, Jake Ellenberger was called to fill in as "The Hitman's" replacement.
The fight will remain on the main card at UFC 111 this Saturday (March 27).
"Killa B" took some time out of his busy schedule to discuss his multiple troubles leading up to the UFC 99 loss, his huge rebound win over Davis, what he expects from Ellenberger and the welterweight title picture.
Check it out:
Derek Bolender (MMAmania.com): Let's go back to UFC 99. You take a step up in competition to fight Mike Swick. What went wrong that night and what did you learn from the loss?
Ben Saunders: It's a touchy situation to talk about. I'm not going to sit here and make excuses. All I'll say is that there was personal stuff going on in my life, emotional things happening that led me to want to take a fight quicker than I should have coming from my toe injury.
On top of that my last sparring session that occurred Friday night before flying out Monday morning I ended up getting a fractured or broken rib and I was told by my chiropractor at the time, "Oh yeah, you'll be fine." Needless to say, I didn't really have enough time beforehand to know the severity of the situation until I went out to Germany.
I went to my first training session, which I believe was on the Wednesday before I started cutting weight on Thursday. I was trying to work with Paul Rodriguez and Cole Miller and I couldn't even do anything. I kept telling myself, "Hey, once the fight starts and the adrenaline kicks in I won't feel it and it won't matter."
Unfortunately, that was not the case. I was unable to perform to the best of my abilities. The only thing I really regret more than anything is that it ended up being what I would consider to be the most boring fight of my entire career. I've never heard boos in my entire life. It was really frustrating.
There's nothing I look at that fight and say, "Man, I should have done this or that," because it was more or less circumstantial. It was pretty even. He really didn't do anything but maybe get one takedown and control top position while I was trying to hold him. He could never pass my guard. I couldn't move.
Anybody that tries to do anything with a rib injury knows what I went through. Those who don't maybe one day you'll find out. The fight prior to us had the crowd impatient. I tried win, lose, or draw to try to put on a show.
I got caught trying to press the action. My distance and timing was off when I through that outside low kick and I knew it. I was just trying to get something going. I was trying to get some kind of action so the crowd would enjoy it. At the end of the day I did do my job, because I ended up getting clipped for it and the crowd went nuts after that. In that sense, more power to Swick. I'm glad the fans ended up getting what they paid for.
Derek Bolender (MMAmania.com): In hindsight, would it have been better to pull out of the fight or were you dead set on gutting it out?
Ben Saunders: There were two other things going on. One is personal and the other one being financial. Those are reasons why I still took the fight. I was also already in Germany by the time I found out everything about the situation. It was literally two days before the fight. It is what it is.
People always ask me, "What did you learn from the loss? What did you take from the loss?" I matured from that fight. I know my limitations. I've fought injured before in my career and I've been able to pull it out every single time. I felt like I was going to do it again.
Derek Bolender (MMAmania.com): Well you followed that up with an impressive showing against Marcus Davis becoming the first man to knock him out in his career. That must have been a pretty satisfying victory for you.
Ben Saunders: For sure, the biggest victory of my entire career. To go out the way I did performance-wise against Swick and then to come back and show everybody what I'm capable of when I'm healed and actually able to psychologically be there in fight mode was nice. I'm not scared to get hit. I'm not scared to go toe-to-toe with anybody. I felt I was able to prove it with one of the most feared strikers in the division.
Derek Bolender (MMAmania.com): After the fight Davis said the following, "I did think it was going to be easy because I felt as though I had enough experience and because he was so thin, it was going to be easy to overpower him." What did you think about those comments?
Ben Saunders: I see where he is coming from because of my Swick fight. I was pretty much shunned from the MMA world after my performance with Swick. I went from being one of the top prospects after by (Brandon) Wolff fight to being basically blacklisted as a nobody. Unfortunately, Davis probably fell for that hype. If anybody would've looked at my Swick fight there were going to be sadly mistaken.
Like Jake Ellenberger - if he looks at my Swick fight and thinks that he's going to be able to take me down and control me he's out of his mind. I've never been controlled on the ground. That's part of my style is being aggressive with my jiu-jitsu off my back. When I started martial arts I was a striker to begin with and then I realized in mixed martial arts I was going to get taken down. What I strived to make the best was me fighting off of my back; whether it's going for subs, sweeps, or standing back up. I want to keep the pace, keep the action.
If you remember my fight with (Dan) Barrera on the TUF finale I wasn't expecting him to take me down because of how I am off my back. It's hard to finish somebody when you know all they're trying to do is hold on. He never once postured. He never once punched me. It's been over two years since that fight and I took a lot from that fight. There are people out there who aren't going to try to be aggressive and just control me. I won that fight because I was aggressive off my back.
That fight alone is probably one of the rarest cases you will ever see of someone actually winning a decision from being on their back. Granted, without a doubt I think Jake is much tougher, more experienced, and more technical than Barrera ever was. At the same time I'm a brown belt in jiu-jitsu now. I've trained long and hard to get where I'm at. I feel I'm very well-rounded. Everyone is going to see that in this fight coming up.
Derek Bolender (MMAmania.com): Ellenberger is a very good, strong wrestler. Do you expect him to come out and try to take you down early and often to avoid your strikes and your reach?
Ben Saunders: I think he is going to try to take me down because at the end of the day I am the taller, lankier fighter. If he stays on the outside I'm going to pick him apart. If he comes in he's going to have to deal with my clinch, which I've shown on numerous occasions to be dangerous. I feel his game plan is going to be to use his heavy hands and either be in and out and be real quick about it or be in and go for the takedown and try to ground and pound me.
Derek Bolender (MMAmania.com): You were booked to face Martin Kampmann but he backed out of the fight due to a cut he sustained in training. He would have been another big name opponent for you. When you hear bad news like that are you disappointed or do you have faith in Joe Silva that he will find another decent fight for you?
Ben Saunders: It was disappointing for one reason and one reason only. The fact that he's been on everyone's top 10 list. A win over Kampmann probably would have legitimately put me in a top 10 position. It would have been awesome because then I could hopefully get a top 5 in my next fight.
Now that I got Jake Ellenberger that is not 100% the case. At the same time I'm not too worried because I know Joe Silva and the UFC know what they're doing. I know they got plans for me. Whatever their plans may be I'm going with the flow.
A win over Ellenberger I believe is just as good as a win over Kampmann. If anything, Ellenberger probably has more experience and more fights than Kampmann does. I know Dana White, Joe Silva, and Lorenzo Fertitta all know this. That is why he ended up being the opponent they gave me as a replacement.
There are so many ways to get injured. Injuries are a dime a dozen. I've gotten them. My opponents have gotten them. This is by no means the first time I've needed a replacement. I'm fortunate and happy that I got someone of Ellenberger's status. I believe the UFC knows he's a top prospect.
Derek Bolender (MMAmania.com): Give me the name of a guy that would make sense for you to fight if you beat Ellenberger?
Ben Saunders: Anybody that is going to get me closer to that title shot. Whether it's a top 10 or top 5 guy or just a fight that the fans want to see it doesn't matter.
Derek Bolender (MMAmania.com): Would you be open to a rematch with Swick someday?
Ben Saunders: Of course. It's not something that's on my mind. I'm coming off a win and I'm going to be coming off a two fight win streak. He's coming off a two fight losing streak. At this point I really do feel for him. I know depressing it can be to come off of one loss.
To be so close to a title shot as he was and to be in the game as long as he is it can definitely be a frustrating experience. I've had my words with Swick and issues that have occurred. At the end of a day I respect him as a fighter. I hope the best for him. I hope he comes back and gets a win in his next fight.
Derek Bolender (MMAmania.com): UFC 111 will be shown not only on PPV but also on various movie theatres across the country. How do you feel about that? I bet you never thought you'd be up on the big screen.
Ben Saunders: Yeah baby! Hell yeah man! That was like the coolest thing I've ever heard. I couldn't have even imagined that happening. There are certain things that I have been apart of with the UFC that have been history in the making. This sport is so new. On numerous occasions I've been apart of history with the UFC and it just blows my mind. I thank god every single day to do what I do and be fortunate enough to be blessed and to live my dream.
Derek Bolender (MMAmania.com): Georges St. Pierre and Dan Hardy are doing battle the same night as you with the welterweight belt on the line. Who do you have and why?
Ben Saunders: Hardy stands a chance because this is a crazy sport and there are so many ways to win. For instance, obviously the upset with GSP and Matt Serra. Matt Serra getting GSP to tap out to strikes was the craziest thing that anybody could have imaged in their lives going into that fight.
There is no way that I will ever count anybody out. If you want to go with statistics and on paper and also video footage I would say there is no way that Hardy is going to be able to stop GSP's takedowns. I don't believe that Hardy has the ability off his back to ground and pound or a submission.
Derek Bolender (MMAmania.com): What is your official prediction for your fight? You got a round in mind?
Ben Saunders: I'm hoping first round. That's my goal. I'm trying to take names and make examples of guys they put me against. I want to be considered one of the best in the world. Not all of us get the random big opportunities out of nowhere. For instance, the Paulo Thiago situation.
He pops out of nowhere and nobody knows who he is and he's fighting Koscheck, who's top 5 in the world. We all don't get that chance and for that reason I want to earn my chance and start taking people out in the first round. I'm legit. I'm no one hit wonder. After Wolff and then Swick I was a one hit wonder.
I want to make a stamp on this sport that I'm here to stay. I'm not just here to win I'm here to revolutionize the sport. My style is very unique. I'm unorthodox and my technique is odd for the welterweight class. I'm very tall and lanky. I'm not skin and bones though. I have muscles and I am strong for my frame.
Anybody that takes me lightly or thinks they're going to steamroll through me they're going to get a rude awakening. They're going to get knocked out or submitted in the first round.
Derek Bolender (MMAmania.com): Any shout outs or sponsors you would like to thank?
Ben Saunders: I want to say rest in peace Mask. You were an amazing person. You will forever be missed and remembered in this sport. On top of that everyone check out my website soon. It is still under construction. You can go to BenSaundersUFC.com. You can also hit me up on Twitter at @BenSaundersUFC or on Facebook.
Derek Bolender is a frequent MMAmania.com contributor. He is also a syndicated writer to FoxSports.com. Follow him at Twitter.com/DerekMMAwriter.