Bellator welterweight Ben (Killa B) Saunders can’t hide his excitement for Spike.com’s upcoming web series “Vote for the Fight.”
“I honestly think it’s the greatest thing they’ve ever done,” Saunders told QMI Agency following Bellator 79 at Casino Rama on Friday.
Starting Thursday the website will begin airing ‘webisodes’ focused on Saunders, War Machine (formerly Jon Koppenhaver), Paul (Semtex) Daley and Douglas (The Phenom) Lima.
Fans can then choose between Saunders, War Machine and Daley, with the winner facing Lima in the first bout of Bellator’s Spike TV debut in January. The fight will also kick off the promotion’s next welterweight tournament. The remaining two competitors will then be shuffled in with four unnamed fighters to round out the eight-man bracket.
Though the Muay Thai specialist is thrilled to be a part of the series, he hopes fans don’t select him, since both he and Lima are affiliated with American Top Team. The two did face off in a 170-pound tournament final one year ago — with Lima picking up a KO victory — but according to Saunders that was under different circumstances.
“That’s the key word — finals,” Saunders said. “We’re teammates and I don’t really need or want to fight my teammates if I don’t have to. I already thought it was a weird situation the first time. If we do, we’d both prefer it to be the finals.”
Saunders also isn’t too keen on fighting War Machine, who was recently released from a second jail term due to assault charges.
“War Machine is my friend, too — from TUF 6 — we’ve still kept in touch,” Saunders said. “It’s been a rough road for him, especially with him coming out of prison and everything. With him being a friend of mine, the last thing I would want is to be his fight back from prison in the tournament.”
But just because Saunders’ would rather avoid War Machine and Lima, doesn’t mean he won’t step into the cage with them. Though he admits if he has his way, he would draw Daley in the opening round.
“I consider him a top 10 striker in our division, in the world,” Saunders said. “I don’t even care if you name off UFC guys — tell me (he isn’t top 10). Martin Kampmann is coming up and (Daley) beat him; he’s coming up against (Johny Hendricks) to be the next (UFC) title contender. So I look at that and am like, ‘This guy is a top 10 welterweight striker.’
“Well, that’s what I’m here for, man. That’s the only reason I’m in this game. That’s what motivates me, to fight the best in the world, to test myself against the best in the world and prove to myself and see exactly where I’m at. With someone like Paul Daley, we both get to do that.”
Though the two are known for their stunning knockouts, Daley and Saunders have displayed improved ground games in their last few fights. A potential fight between the two could easily encompass more than just striking, but Saunders said he hopes to trade heavy leather.
“It’s a mixed-martial-arts fight,” Saunders said. “I’m all about testing my standup. I’m all about banging — I have no problem with that. The greatest thing is he doesn’t have the greatest wrestling. My downfall in the past might have been my takedown defence. Obviously I’m working at everything and getting better. But it wouldn’t be such a big question mark in a fight like that.
“I wouldn’t say it’s old-school, style vs. style — it’s physique vs. physique. The tall, lanky guy vs. the short, stocky guy. It almost makes it a stylistic match-up. Especially us coming from striking backgrounds. I’ve fought tall, lanky guys and I’ve fought short people. I guarantee he has fought both of them, too. So it’s just going to be about who’s better than night, I guess.”
BIG TEST FOR WAR MACHINE
Bellator raised a few eyebrows when it announced War Machine’s (formerly Jon Koppenhaver) participation in its upcoming welterweight tournament.
The controversial fighter was released on Monday from a one-year prison term stemming from an assault charge. It was his second trip behind bars.
Though fans can debate how deserving he is of the opportunity, the underlying question is whether or not 12 weeks is enough time for him to get in shape.
“He lost a lot of weight when he was in prison because he was in solitary by his own design and his desire to stay out of trouble with a general-population setting,” Bellator CEO Bjorn Rebney told a group of reporters following Bellator 79 at Casino Rama Friday. “He was training the day after he got released and throwing up all over the gym because he hadn’t had much training.”
Rebney admitted he tried to convince War Machine to take a regular bout and miss next season’s tourney, but said the talented welterweight feels part of getting his life back on track is having a goal to work towards.
“We asked him that ... and said, ‘Why don’t you just wait? Why don’t you just take a fight, get your feet back under you and then go in the second tournament on Spike?’” Rebney said. “When he first got out, for a nine-month run before he got put back in jail, he did nothing wrong.
“Jon’s Jon — he’s going to say dumb things on a consistent basis — but he didn’t break any laws. He didn’t punch anybody on the street. He was as good as Jon has ever been over an extended period. The judge put him back in over something he had done prior to his previous incarceration.
“So he said, ‘I just need the direction. I don’t want to be floating, not knowing when my fight’s going to be. I want total direction.’ So that’s what we gave him.”