clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Ben Saunders Talks Fight Preparation, Chute Boxe Mentality

Ben Saunders enters his UFC 111 against Jake Ellenberger on March 27 with notches on both his standup and ground game. The 26-year-old is coming off a win over Marcus Davis that once again pronounced how devastating his knees are from the clinch, and in January was promoted to a brown belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu under American Top Team co-founder Ricardo Liborio.

In this exclusive interview with MMA Fighting, Saunders spoke at length about the preparations for a fight and the styles that have molded his game.

Ray Hui: With the opponent switch from Martin Kampmann to Jake Ellenberger, are we going to see more of a wrestling fight and less of a kickboxing one?
Ben Saunders: Yes and no. He is heavy-handed and I think he is a game opponent in the standup. He doesn't seem to be scared or worried of trading (punches) by any means, but from what I can take from his past fights and considering the style matchup of this one, it seems like his gameplan most likely will be to use his heavy hands to get the takedown. As far as being a wrestling match, he's going to have to accomplish that, which is going to be very difficult in my opinion.

Jake said in an interview earlier this month that from studying tape, you don't like to get hit and he's not worried about your knees. Does that surprise you when you hear that when you've built a reputation for your striking?
I think it's interesting that he's seen footage and that I don't like to get hit, considering in my opinion I've shown time and time again that is one thing that I don't mind. Getting punches in the face is something that I do daily. Striking was the beginning of my martial arts background and by no means do I mind getting punched in the face. It gets the crowd something to cheer for and it gives me the ambition to return the favor. As far as him thinking he's not worried about my knees. Dude, I think everybody at this point underestimate the ... We'll see once we get out there, how he's able to deal with them.
I try to keep that Chute Boxe mentality of coming at you and if you do survive the first round, you're coming into the second respecting me.
-- Ben Saunders

At UFC 106, you became the first person to knock out Marcus Davis. When you look back at the finish, was there a surprise to see him go down?
Nah man, it definitely wasn't surprising at all. I know what I'm capable of and I haven't even come close to showing any of that in the Octagon. I believe every time I go out there I either get more comfortable or I gain more experience. I'm able to showcase -- depending on the style matchup, depending on who I'm up against, determines what I do. I try to keep that Chute Boxe mentality of coming at you and if you do survive the first round, you're coming into the second respecting me.

How do you balance that aggressiveness with strategy?
I come from a Jeet Kune Do background, and I really do believe on top of my aggressiveness, it's really a fifty-fifty. I kind of go with the flow. I don't try to take things that are not there. If you give me something, I'm going to take it. If I see an exposure, I'm going to react. I never really try to come up with too much of a gameplan: "Hey, this is exactly how it's going to go down." But I come up with -- I've been training for so long that I've been in every position I believe that you can possibly be in. I don't think I'll ever be caught off guard and at the end of the day, whatever spot I'm in, I have a system of go-to moves and techniques. I just mix it up so much and I'm pretty unorthodox and difficult to prepare for.

For him to use those heavy hands, he's going to have to get past certain ranges and it's going to open things up for me. I think he's a good style matchup for me and I respect him 100% as a fighter. I didn't know who he was before the Condit fight but I became an immediate fan afterwards. It's an honor to fight him and it's going to be even more of an honor to beat him.

Jake really impressed in that Condit fight. He dominated the fight early before he slowed down in the later rounds.
Yeah, it really blows my mind he didn't get a 10-8 in the first round. He dropped him three times. Granted, you can look at it as Condit dropped himself -- I guess that was the pulling turtle situation. Instead of pulling guard, you get rocked and drop into a turtle position instead of guard. But you got to look at that and say, "that definitely should have been a 10-8 round."

You'll be entering this fight as a brown belt. As someone with background in traditional martial arts, I take it the promotion has a lot of meaning for you?
That was without a doubt one of the most, the biggest accomplishments that I can easily say that I have so far in my life. Obviously I'm striving to get my black belt, but to get a brown belt and under Ricardo Liborio, one of the biggest names in the jiu-jitsu game, is a huge honor. And I look forward to showing that jiu-jitsu come March 27.

Do you train gi?
I mix it up. When I'm actually preparing for a mixed martial arts bout, when I'm actually in a training camp, the gi is used at a minimum. Because at the end of the day, I'm training for what I'm actually fighting for and when you deal with grabbing the gi and using handles ... When it comes to no-gi and mixed martial arts, the scramble is probably the biggest part of the game. Do you end up in a dominant position? Do you end up standing back up? That's something I believe is incorporated into my training.

I love jiu-jitsu with the gi, man. It's actually one of the funnest thing you can do. It brings the beauty, the art of of Brazilian jiu-jitsu and the technical side of it and it easily brings it up tenfold on the ground. You can't scramble on the ground. It's not all about athleticism and strength or anything when you're dealing with the gi, and I love that aspect of it. But when I'm not in training camp, I'm a huge fan of working with the gi.

When you're studying an opponent, how much does someone's belt rank tell you about them? Or is most of the studying done by watching tape?
You get a sense of their dedication to jiu-jitsu. When you're talking about belt ranking, that shows dedication because that's years of training and experience in that art. And as far as looking at fight footage, one of the things that I like doing is not looking at what they're doing, but what their opponents are doing. I judge along the lines of what their opponent is doing, and what they've done wrong to get caught or hit or whatever. It comes down to we're trying to trick each other and I definitely focus on the mistakes and what the other guy is doing as opposed to the fighter himself.

Since you're a fan of the Chute Boxe style, do you think Wanderlei Silva will ever become that threat he was when he was with Chute Boxe?
I hope so. I'm a huge Wanderlei fan. I am 100% a huge Wanderlei fan. Coming up watching PRIDE. It was definitely a huge part of. I've been a fan since day when it comes to mixed martial arts. Chute Boxe, the way the guys come out. You know you're going to get a show. And the guys standing there looking against them, whether they know it or not, most likely they do. There's just this aura, fear that you know this guy is going to come at you hard, and if he gets you it's coming to trouble. Especially when it came to Wanderlei, he's bring brutality back to the sport and I'm loving it.

I think with him coming to the UFC. You look at all the PRIDE guys and it's a different atmosphere, fighting not only in a cage but in the UFC. With the different rules. The sport is evolving thing though. That's probably the biggest problem with Wanderlei and the Chute Boxe guys coming over. The evolution of the sport has grown so much that people as a whole, the MMA community has gotten so much better.

When it comes to Wanderlei. He's there with Jens Pulver and Randy Couture and all them. Fight till you want to quit, man. I will watch you until you honestly feel you want to end your career. I will support you and respect you.

Sign up for the newsletter Sign up for the MMA Fighting Daily Roundup newsletter!

A daily roundup of all your fighting news from MMA Fighting