Interviews

Bellator MMA's Ben Saunders on His Long-Awaited Rematch with Douglas Lima This Weekend at Grand Canyon University Arena

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So your battle with Douglas Lima this Friday at Grand Canyon University Arena an important one for you personally, correct? Yeah, it's definitely a big fight for me.

You guys are the headlining bout on the card. Yeah. But I've been there before with Bellator and it's no different to me, man. I've been in some really big shows and fought some really big names, so it's sort of just another day at the office.

Since Lima won your last battle, is there a certain amount of retribution motivating you? I'm definitely down for the whole tit-for-tat aspect [but] revenge or any of that is not necessarily there, but I'm sure he's confident and I'm motivated, so that's gonna be really where the clash is gonna be. I'm extremely motivated to get that "W" and win this damn tournament.

If you beat him, you win that particular Bellator tournament, as well as $100,000 and a shot at the current champ in your weight class, right? Yeah. Basically, if you win a Bellator tournament, you win a shot at the title. And that's kind of a question mark as far as who the [welterweight] titleholder would be or who the fight would be against, 'cause the current champ [Ben Askren] is currently a free agent. So I don't know if he's re-signing or really what the plan is with all that.

But that's down the road. That's all on Bellator's side. I'm focused on winning this, so I'm not really paying attention [to] so much of the "what ifs" and "could'ves" of what Ben Askren plans on doing with his career, and I don't really know what Bellator's stance is on if he does or does not choose to stay.

Are you pressuring yourself to beat Lima and win a Bellator tournament? Not pressure, man. I mean, whatever happens, happens, but there's a big difference between pressure and motivation. I just got a lot of motivation going for it, man.

Your fight with Lima has been delayed several months due to injury. Has it been frustrating or has it given you extra time to train? I'd say more frustrating than anything, but I've used my time wisely. So I'm coming into this fight very, very well prepared. I didn't need the time. In fact, it was seven months of me being completely healthy that I was kind of benched. And considering that this is all I do for a living, that kind of screwed up damn near a lot of time for finances. But I plan on coming out there and I plan on winning. So it will all be worth it.

How have you been using your time wisely? Just to train, man, just to get better and improve. You've got to understand; seven months...that's a long time. Nobody trains seven months for one fight. That's a ridiculous [timespan]. So it was definitely planning for Lima himself, but just overall, improving my skills.

I've been [ready] for a year now and I've never in my life had to focus and put my whole life on hold for this long. This is the most hardcore thing I've ever done for sure. And I'm pretty sure it's gonna be the last time this kind of thing happens. There's no way a tournament should ever go this long.

You haven't fought for seven months straight? Yeah, exactly. When [Lima] broke his hand, I was like, "Yo, I've broke my hand in the past so I know exactly what's up. It's going to take a minimum of a few months to heal and then two months for training camp, so we're talking five months. I'm in shape, I'm ready to go, get me a fight. Let me do something to make some money on the side." But they didn't want that, I guess. So I kind of waited. Then I was supposed to fight July 31.

And then he had another injury, the rib injury, or whatever's happened to him. And they postponed it again. It was supposed to be September 7. And then they were like, "Hey, you could fight July 31." And I felt like that just wasn't smart. I'm here for the tournament. Me fighting a month before I have to fight Lima, how's that fair? I could go out there, kick the dude in the face, knock him out in the first round, but sprain or break my foot, and then what? What's the point?

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Benjamin Leatherman is a staff writer at Phoenix New Times. He covers local nightlife, music, culture, geekery, and fringe pursuits.