||03-30-2012 03:38 PM
Ben Saunders discusses tonight's opponent and says he's '100 percent' certain he'll stay in there with Bellator even if the UFC wanted him back:
This is a guest post by Stephie "Crooklyn" Daniels. Follow Stephie on Twitter @CrooklynMMA.
With Bellator 63 just a few more hours away, the quarterfinals of the welterweight tourney will be kicked off with some great matches. Of particular interest is the one between Raul Amaya and crowd favorite, Ben Saunders. With his last fight but a distant memory, Saunders hopes to get back on track in impressive fashion. I recently got a quick interview with Ben, and was able to get his thoughts going into this season's tournament.
SD: What do you know about your opponent?
BS: I don't really know too much about him. He seems like a brawling wrestler, so I'm going to be watching out for overhand rights and the takedown, for the most part.
SD: With this being Amaya's first fight on a big stage, how big a factor do you think cage jitters or stage fright will be for him?
BS: There's no doubt in my mind that this is going to be the fight of his life, and the fight of his career. Not only that it's the biggest stage for him, but I'm definitely going to be the biggest name and most experienced fighter he's ever gone against. Hopefully his training camp went well and prepared for me so we can get out there and put on a show for the fans.
SD: What do you like best about Bellator?
BS: I love Bellator. They're 100% top notch, and they treat me well. To be honest, I love their cage. I think their cage, and above all, their canvas and flooring is the best there is. The grip that I get on it...I just feel that their cage is the best that I've ever fought in.
SD: With most MMA fighters, their ultimate goal is to get into the UFC or get back into it's fold, but you seem to have found a really comfortable groove with Bellator. Is it not so much a priority as it once was for you to find your way back to the UFC?
BS: When i first started with Bellator, I wasn't sure what direction I was going to be going in or how I felt. Now, I've been with them for so long, and they've treated me so well, that at this point, I'm 100% down to work and stay with Bellator. I'm only getting older, so when I look at it, and ask myself what's really relevant, and what's really important, and that's being able to make a living. Being able to pay my bills. I'm able to do that with Bellator, and I'm down to build and grow with them.
You just never know. I can't be stupid enough or naive enough to not look at the what ifs of potential career ending injuries that could plague me down the road. I'm living in the now, and just doing the best I can to create a financial plan for myself for when my career starts to go a little downhill, or when I start losing my prime.
SD: How do you think you'd do in rematches against the guys you lost to, and is it important to you to avenge your losses?
BS: As far as the Lima fight goes, I felt I won the first round, and the second round, we both threw for the fences, and his landed. It is what it is. But hell, I'm always down to defend any of my losses. I expect him to win the title, and I'm expecting myself to win the tournament, so the Saunders/Lima rematch is a very high possibility. That fight doesn't get to me as much as the others, because it was a competitive match that I felt I was winning. We both put it all on the line, and it's something that I believe anybody can look at and say, 'Hey, on any given day, either one of those guys could have won that fight, in any kind of fashion.'
As far as the other three rematches, without a doubt, I know, for sure, that I could win. I felt that I wasn't able to showcase my skill and my talent, the way I was able to with Lima. With these fights, there's no doubt in my mind that I didn't perform to my abilities, and I think a rematch with those guys would be 100% different.
Everybody that I've ever lost to has had more experience and more fights than me. I think that has been a big factor that worked out well for them, because they put the time into their career and their skills to get to where they are. At this point in time, in my career, I've done the exact same thing. I feel I'm kind of breaking into my prime now, and I believe that I have the confidence and skills to finish anybody in a rematch.
Follow Ben via his Twitter account, @BenSaundersMMA
And here's how the fighters in the main event choose to hype things up:
Maybe you can see why Chris Lozano is a little worked up.
"Lozano is going to be my new punching bag," said Karl Amoussou (13-4-2 MMA, 1-1 BFC), who fights Lozano (9-2 MMA, 2-2 BFC) Friday at Bellator 63. "I'm going to knock him out cold."
But then again, Amoussou's nickname is "Psycho."
"Chris, just know that when you step into that cage you're have a real Psycho in front of you," the French fighter told Bellator. "A dangerous man coming to destroy you with no mercy. Be ready for war!"
Amoussou vs. Lozano serves as one of four opening-round matchups broadcast live on MTV2 for the Bellator season-six welterweight tournament. Bellator 63 takes place at Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Conn. Preliminary-card fights stream on Spike.com.
Amoussou was originally scheduled to fight Jon "War Machine" Koppenhaver, but the oft-troubled fighter was sent back to prison for a previous offense. That lowers the tabloid appeal of Friday's matchup, but nonetheless, the recent huffing and puffing has certainly brought a little life into the fight.
Lozano is already worked up over Amoussou's Twitter talk.
But if Amoussou is on edge, it may be because he's trying to make a good impression. He's gone 3-2-1 since a concerted push into the U.S. market after years of mostly fighting overseas, and he's 1-1 under the Bellator banner in non-tournament bouts.
Amoussou brings aggression to the cage, but he also has to bring wins, and winning the Bellator season-six tournament could send his stock through the roof.
"Winning this tournament will be the biggest accomplishment in my life," he said. "I didn't come here for second place. I came here to Bellator to win this tournament and to become a world champion, and that's exactly what I'm going to do. I came here to get my belt and to destroy every man that stands in front of me along the way."
So Amoussou expects to make a big impression. But if Lozano makes the fight a grapplefest, that will be much harder.
"I hope Chris has the balls to stand with me," Amoussou said. "If he does, it will be a great fight for the fans. Either way, it will be my hand that is raised at the end.
"I don't see this fight with Chris [Lozano] going to the judges. There's definitely going to be a knockout in this fight and I won't be the one laying in the cage."
Here's an interview for the new fighter to Bellator coming in on short notice:
Jordan Smith keeps telling himself slow and steady, like a tortoise, when it comes to his career.
But things have been moving pretty quickly as of late.
With a week's notice, Smith has a chance to win $100,000 in Bellator's season-six welterweight tournament sits before him, and he doesn't plan on blowing it.
"You've got to take the opportunities when they come, and one of them showed itself," he told MMAjunkie.com Radio (www.mmajunkie.com/radio). "This is my second big opportunity to make the most of it."
The first didn't go so well. Smith, a former middle-school science teacher, managed to make it past the audition process for "The Ultimate Fighter 11" but was knocked out by Brad Tavares in the elimination round. It was his first loss ever.
"That was my first step in to the big shows," Smith said. "It took me a while to find my way back into the mainstream."
Smith did that by hitting the road. He bounced between Brazil and his native Utah under the banner of management team Black House, winning three of his next four fights. This past September, he bucked the stepping stone role assigned to him on Karo Parisyan's comeback trail, upsetting the UFC vet by split decision. He rubbed shoulders with greatness, assiting UFC middleweight champ Anderson Silva prepare for Yushin Okami. By the end of the year, he had an attractive 17-2 record for big promotions, but no big fights.
That is, until a few weeks ago when Bellator came calling. Tournament participant Brian Foster wasn't medically cleared to compete in the opening-round, scheduled for Bellator 63, and he got the call.
"Where are we fighting?" was his first question.
The answer is Uncasville, Connecticut, where Bellator 63 takes place at Mohegan Sun Arena. Smith (17-2 MMA, 0-0 BFC) meets David Rickels (9-0 MMA, 3-0 BFC) on the main card of the event, which airs live on MTV2. (Preliminary-card fights stream on Spike.com.)
Smith said he's been traveling so much, he hasn't had much time to watch Bellator, let alone study his opponents. But he knows a big chance when he sees one.
"They all look dangerous," he said. "I'm only on two weeks notice, so I've concentrated on Rickels. I don't want to look ahead from what's in front of me right now. After I win this first round, I'll look deeper into the other guys' records and see some film and see who my biggest problem is going to be."
From what he can tell, the fight should play out on its feet, which means a fast-moving fight.
"Unless one of us gets in trouble in the standup and we have to revert to the ground and jiu-jitsu," Smith said. "I think everyone watching is going to have more fun than me when I'm fighting."
And if things continue this way in his career, Smith might have to adjust his speedometer.