Anyone who's watched his highlight reel knows what Ben Saunders is capable of.
Bellator fans got a brutal reintroduction during his promotion debut this past April, slicing and dicing Matt Lee with a series of elbows and knees from the clinch in a two and a half round display of unprecedented violence.
"Killa B" is back with Bellator and he's ready to swarm his opponents with his relentless Muay Thai attack. He will be competing tomorrow night (September 10, 2011) at Bellator 49 in the quarterfinals of the Bellator season five welterweight tournament against Chris Cisneros.
Saunders opened up about some dark times in part one of his interview with MMAmania.com and in part two, he talks about his background, what experience most helped prepare him for the tournament format and his mentality once the cage doors close.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): You were originally slated to face Rick Hawn but he got hurt and now Chris Cisneros is stepping in. He's a kickboxer and he's on a nice seven fight win streak. What are your thoughts on him?
Ben Saunders: Any opponent is dangerous. I know for a fact that because he's coming out of Hawaii he'll be a game opponent and he'll be ready to scrap. He'll probably have all the heart in the world. Basically, all of Hawaii backs him up and I know he'll he coming hard and coming strong to fight me. I hope it's fast and quick and I can move on to the next round but I'm expecting a war.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): I know you love to get up close and personal when you fight. In the first two rounds of this tournament, they don't allow elbows because they don't want cuts to factor into people advancing. I know that elbows are one of your most lethal weapons. Is this something you're concerned about going into these first two rounds of the tournament?
Ben Saunders: Not concerned but definitely disappointed. I was definitely looking forward to using elbows and if all goes according to plan, I'll be able to use my elbows in the finals and for the title. Elbows are a nice tactic to use on my opponent but it's just one thing that they're taking away. The only thing I'm worried about is if I'm in the fight and I'm going on killer instinct and I don't accidentally throw one and get in trouble. (laughs)
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): You don't have much experience with short breaks between fights in your professional career but you were on The Ultimate Fighter and you had some serious quick turnaround on a couple of fights. Do you feel that The Ultimate Fighter experience may have helped you prepare for a tournament format like this?
Ben Saunders: Actually that's 100% how I do compare it. You don't know who you're fighting until 24 hours notice, not knowing when you have to cut weight until 24 hours notice. I fought Dan Barrera and then I fought four or five days later. It's pretty crazy man. That's pretty insane so the way I see it, this is a very professional way of doing something that's so crazy. We know who we're gonna be fighting, who to prepare for and what day and time it's going down. This is a lot easier to prepare for than on TUF. I think it will give me an edge over people that haven't done the Bellator tournament or any tournament like it.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): For Bellator 47, you were trying to get a fight and you came down with an injury. I know you're healed up and ready to go now but what did you go through with that injury? How serious was it?
Ben Saunders: To be honest with you, I'll tell you exactly what happened. I fought April 2nd and I was trying to fight again on April 30th, I was trying to fight in May and I was trying to fight in June. I finally had a fight scheduled for July and I rolled my ankle in training about two weeks before the match. It wasn't even bad enough where I was like if I didn't have the tournament coming up, I probably would have still fought. It wasn't that serious but I didn't want to go injured into a fight, kick this dude in the face and make it worse. I mean, what was the point of that fight when the real prestige, the the real chance at a title shot is with this tournament? I erred on the side of caution with that, it wasn't serious and I used the two weeks to let the injury heal so I could jump back into training camp for the tournament.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): I know you're a huge Jeet Kune Do guy, Bruce Lee. Bellator has that big 'Like Water' campaign with that sick commercial showcasing the fighters and you're in it. What goes through your mind when you watch that?
Ben Saunders: I knew they had big plans and I knew when we out there in New York filming shots that it was gonna look cool but I had NO IDEA that they were doing anything Bruce Lee related. When I saw that, I swear to God man I had goosebumps. My jaw dropped. I probably rewound and watched that like 20 times over and over and over. It was one of the coolest things that I've ever been a part of. That and obviously when Dana White hooked me up with the "How Bruce Lee changed the world" documentary.
Since I was a child I've been the biggest fan of the sport and the one thing I've always seen is these random guys saying they were using Jeet Kune Do concepts and they were just getting smashed. They were getting embarrassed. It made me want to kill them! How could you go out there and represent Bruce Lee and just get destroyed like that? That's why I'm so thankful that Dana White went out and said that Bruce Lee is the father of mixed martial arts. He was the originator that was actually teaching people and breaking boundaries and changing the philosophy of everything. He used boxing and judo, he knew submissions and this was way before anybody started MMA. At a very young age, I knew that not only did I want to be a world champion but I wanted to let everyone know what Bruce Lee has done for me and for the world. I wouldn't be where I am today if it wasn't for Bruce Lee.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): When the cage doors close, you've talked about how you psyche yourself up and you have things going through your head like, "oh I feel sorry for this guy." Can you talk about what's going through your head right before a fight is about to begin?
Ben Saunders: Everyone's different. I've even toyed with the pros and cons, what aspects it takes to get your mind right. How do you accomplish that? At the end of the day for me, it's always been when I tell myself that at no other point in time other than right there, right when that door closes and that ref says, "Fight!," that is the only time where I actually get to go out there with no shin guard, no knee pads, no elbow pads and go really try to hurt someone. Kick them as hard as I can, as hard as I want to. Knee them and punch them as hard as I want to without holding back, without ever thinking, "I'm gonna get arrested," or, "I'm gonna get in trouble."
That is the only time in my life that I actually can see what I'm capable of. In my head, I get really, really excited and really, really amped up to try and see what I can accomplish today. What can I add to my highlight reel today? What can I show the fans today? What can Ben Saunders bring to the table so the fans can enjoy themselves? I'm the biggest fan myself and when I'm in the cage, sometimes I think, "If I'm in the stands, what the hell would I want to see?" and I try to accomplish that to the best of my abilities.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): What do you think the fans are going to be able to expect when you step in there against Chris Cisneros on Saturday night?
Ben Saunders: Hopefully fireworks man. Any time I fight, I'm honestly looking at trying to put on a show: the most brutal, devastating and bloody show possible. I honestly want it to be "The Ben Saunders show" every time I fight and I want everybody to know it.
Ben would like to thank American Top Team, ATT Orlando, his coaches Paulo Rodriguez, Bobby Robare and all his teammates. He'd also like to thank all the fans for making everything he does that much better. He'd lastly like to thank his sponsors Yoked Up Apparel (where you can get the 'Killa B' t-shirt). You can follow Ben on twitter @BenSaundersMMA or you can hit him up on Facebook
So what do you think Maniacs?
Ben Saunders certainly has his mind in the right place as he heads into this tournament. Does he have what it takes to win it all?
Be sure to check out these other interviews from our Bellator welterweight introductory series: