Exclusive: Bellator 100's Ben Saunders extremely confident with guardian angel Bobby Robare in his cornerIf Ben Saunders had it his way, he'd be fighting every other month. So it's no big surprise he's been crawling up the walls waiting for his Bellator season eight tournament final opponent Douglas Lima to heal up injuries. Saunders was so anxious to stay active he even tried multiple times to get a tune-up fight while "The Phenom" recovered from his broken hand. But the extra bouts never took place, so "Killa B" stayed in training camp for seven long months, completely dedicating himself to improving in all facets with a focus so intense he missed holidays. It was an experience he says he wouldn't wish on his worst enemy, but he knows he's better for it. Saunders was defeated by Lima the first time they fought in the Bellator season five tournament finals, but he's champing at the bit to get his hands on the Brazilian later tonight (Sept. 21, 2013) when they square off in the main event of Bellator 100 in Phoenix, Arizona. The American Top Team product spoke to MMAOddsbreaker about working with his original Muay Thai coach, why winning a tournament is so important to him and how much being allowed to use elbows will factor into the bout in this exclusive interview. Check it out: Brian Hemminger: This is the third time this Lima fight has been scheduled because of injuries, how does it finally have it take place? Ben Saunders: Oh man, it feels great. The fact I'm even out here, that just means the fight is actually happening. I'm definitely pumped. It's been a long time coming. It was a long, long training camp but yeah, I'm feeling good, I'm feeling great and I'm ready to put on show. Brian Hemminger: You're a guy who likes to fight as much as possible. Were you crawling up the walls having to wait seven months for this bout to take place? Ben Saunders: Yeah, man. I kind of wanted to get a fight in between because I've broken my hand in the past and I know exactly what it feels like and what it takes to recover from it. I was looking at 2-3 months minimum plus you probably need a two month training camp so that was about five month minimum situation. I was feeling great coming off a great first round knockout and I was in shape ready to go trying to get a fight but it got postponed. They wanted me to wait for Lima and it was definitely frustrating a bit. Brian Hemminger: How do you manage your training camp? How do you keep yourself from peaking at the wrong time when you're training for seven months straight? Ben Saunders: There's definitely a lot of fluctuation. I wasn't even sure when I was trying to get a fight for March, April or May. I was trying for that end they told me I'd get Lima July 31st so I cut it down. I was peaking again and when he got hurt again and it got postponed again, we had to bring it down more and more. I used my time wisely. I'm a very intelligent fighter. I've got almost a decade in the sport and I'm able to feel my body and know it. There were skills I wanted to work on. I was able to put in more time with my strength and conditioning coach. It was time well-spent but time that wasn't exactly necessary. At the end of the day, my plan is to go out there, put on a show, get that W and bring home that big check. Then it'll all be worth it. Brian Hemminger: You put in some serious work with your Muay Thai coach Bobby Robare in advance of this fight. What difference has he made for you as you enter this rematch? Ben Saunders: Oh man, it's been all the difference in the world. I've been with that man since 2004. I've been with him since my second professional fight and there's just been times, issues and stuff that had nothing to do with me that had not allowed him to be in my camp or whatever off and on throughout the years. But any fight that man has coached me for, I've won. I've never lost a fighter where he's been a part of my camp and it's because he's that good. I'm telling you man, I'm fucking ready to go with this fight man. I've got something to prove for sure. Brian Hemminger: Do you have a special connection to Robare? You seem like you have so much more confidence when he's with you. Ben Saunders: For sure, man. He's the only accredited instructor in the United States to teach the Mejiro Gym Holland Dutch Kickboxing. When you think kickboxing, they're the best in the world. They trained studs and champions all the time that fought all over the world. Knowing where he comes from, his lineage and legacy, you can't question the man. He knows what the hell he's doing and he's really evolved with the sport over the years. He's very open-minded and intelligent. He's definitely my guardian angel in that sense. He's a great asset. Brian Hemminger: It seems to me like winning a Bellator tournament for you is more important than winning the title, like that's the reason you signed up for this. Is that true? Ben Saunders: That's exactly true, man. A title is a title. That's great, man, but there's nothing more hardcore, more realistic in my opinion to the fight game than a fucking grueling tournament. It seems like a damn near year-long tournament, but it's not like I've lost focus like a normal fighter would. I cut myself off, man. I've been in training camp, focus-wise, my team stayed the same, I missed holidays with my family. It's not something I'll ever want to do again as far as how long it took, but I know what I put into this. I didn't give up all that time and give all that effort to come out here and lose. Brian Hemminger: Do you think all that work will make the difference, especially since Lima has been sidelined and forced to recover rather than train as much as you have? Ben Saunders: It was far from easy, man. I wouldn't wish what I've been through on anybody and there's no doubt in my mind that what I put into this is going to play a huge factor. Brian Hemminger: How much of a benefit will it be for you to finally be allowed to use elbows again? I know you feel like you're handicapping yourself in the opening two rounds of the tournament with that rule. Ben Saunders: Oh man, it's so nice to have that back in the game. One of the most frustrating times was when I fought Bryan Baker and I got him in a triangle. I was like, "Okay, if elbows were allowed it would be game over, man! It'd be game over! Just elbow the dude in the head until he's knocked unconscious or passes out." It's unfortunate, but elbows are definitely something I've been training a lot of and I'm well-versed in them, I feel. I'm looking forward in any opportunities that they are available, I will be using them for sure. Brian Hemminger: You've been thinking about this fight for so long and training for it so hard. When you picture the main event against Lima, what do you see? Ben Saunders: A potential war, but if everything goes accordingly, it shouldn't be. If everything goes as good as I think it can make it happen, I should be able to get a finish and not have to take it to the war standards. Lima's a tough dude, man. There's no doubt in my mind, I've said it before, but I believe he, on any given night, could beat anyone in the world. We're elite. We're the elite of Bellator and that just makes it that much of a bigger deal. That's why Bellator put us as the main event for the 100th show. They know we bring it. Ben would like to thank Bobby Robare, his training partners who've stuck by him, his sponsors Future Legend, Onnit, Nutrition Arsenal, Havoc and everyone he forgot. You can follow him on Twitter @BenSaundersMMA.
Tags: mma, bellator, douglas lima, ben saunders, spike tv, Welterweight, bellator 100, Lima vs Saunders, interview, Bellator 100 interview, tournament, Lima vs Saunders 2, Ben Saunders interview, final, main event
About the Author
Brian Hemminger has been involved in MMA since 2007, and is highly regarded for his well-researched and knowledgeable interviews. He has hosted The Verbal Submission MMA podcast for three years and was a staff writer at MMAmania.com from 2011 to 2013 with an extensive background in live coverage, fight previews and post-fight analysis.
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