Ben Saunders looks to take one more step on his quest for championship gold as he is set to face Chris Cisneros in Bellator’s season five welterweight tournament.  Before he finalizes his camp, Saunders spoke with The MMA Corner about his thoughts on the upcoming tournament.

Saunders stormed on to the MMA scene after he became a fan favorite on season six of The Ultimate Fighter.  After the season ended, Saunders went 4-3 in his seven fights with the UFC before he was released after a loss to Dennis Hallman at UFC 117.  During his time in the UFC, Saunders earned a reputation as a guy that would always step up to fight the people that nobody else would.

After his release from the UFC, Saunders picked up a win in a smaller promotion before signing a multi-fight deal with Bellator.  In his first fight in Bellator, Saunders once again showed the world why he is considered one of the best up-and-coming fighters in the welterweight division, as he viciously picked apart Matt Lee for two rounds before the ringside doctor was forced to stop the fight.

With his first victory down, Saunders plans on winning three more fights en route to a title shot.  Saunders was originally supposed to face Rick Hawn before the judoka was forced out of the tournament and replaced by Chris Cisneros.

“I am really looking forward to this tournament,” Saunders told The MMA Corner.  “Not too many people get the opportunity to fight three times in three months.  Winning a tournament like this is one of the hardest things to accomplish so I am really looking forward to this.”

This will be Saunders’ first opportunity at the tournament-style format and he plans on taking full advantage of the opportunity.

“I personally always loved the old-school style of tournament where you had three or four fights in one night,” Saunders said. “Obviously, I have never had the opportunity to compete in one of those events, but that is what really got me into the sport.  That is the style that I grew up with, watching the first UFC and Pride when they did their tournaments.  I think that the tournament style is a unique aspect that not too many people get to see any more and I am happy to be a part of it and I plan on making the most of it.”

Even though this is his first time in a tournament, he is not looking past the first round.

“I have not even looked at the brackets,” Saunders admitted.  “I know my first fight is with Chris and that is all I am focused on at the moment.  For me as a fighter, there is no point for me to look at the brackets and think, ‘Okay, maybe I will face this guy or that guy’ because so many things can happen and I might end up fighting somebody completely different.  I know it’s a tournament and all I have to do is win, so it doesn’t matter how the bracket plays out.”

Saunders knows that this tournament is the most important of his career.

“Every fight that I go into, at that time is the biggest fight of my career and this is no different,” said Saunders. “I’m on a two-fight win streak and I plan on keeping that going.  I think it is great that I have the opportunity to possibly string three more wins together on my record within three months.  That is the plan and that is the goal and I plan on becoming the tournament champion and getting my opportunity to face the winner of Ben Askren and Jay Hieron.

“At the end of the day, besides my passion and love for the sport, being champion is what I am here for, and with Bellator’s unique style of how they run things, the only way to get a title shot is to win the tournament, so that is what I plan on doing.”

Saunders is certainly battle-tested and he has proved that he can stand in there and compete with the best that this sport has to offer.  The rest of the competition needs to take Saunders seriously or they will be in for a long night.

Photo: Ben Saunders (Dave Mandel/Sherdog)

About The Author

Josh Davis
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Josh Davis is the owner and President of The MMA Corner, LLC. He has been a fan of mixed martial arts since seeing UFC 1 in his hometown. In addition to his The MMA Corner responsibilities, Josh is the editor of Scrapp! Fight Magazine. Josh has also written for MMA Unleashed and MMA Sports magazines. Josh also manages some of Colorado's best up and coming fighters and is dedicated to the positive promotion of the sport.