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Ben Saunders looking to rise up in Phoenix for UFC return

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Before his UFC Phoenix fight on Sunday, Ben “Killa B” Saunders spoke to Bloody Elbow about the origins of his nickname, executing the UFC’s first Omoplata, and how he met his opponent while training with Chuck Liddell.

Following a swift 17-second smoke-check of Jacob Volkmann on the MMA regional scene, Ben Saunders is returning to the UFC for his 30th professional fight. Saunders already sports a 7-4 record inside of the promotion as he heads to UFC Phoenix to take on fellow veteran, and TUF 11 winner, Court McGee. “Killa B” caught up with Bloody Elbow to discuss meeting McGee while training with Chuck Liddell, putting the rubber guard on the map, and even addresses the current state of hip-hop.

With 10 finishes spread across two major MMA promotions, Ben Saunders admitted that the cake-taker was scoring the UFC’s first ever Omoplata in front of Eddie Bravo, his mentor and 10th Planet Jiu-Jitsu founder.

“The Omoplata would probably have to be the biggest. One, because it got me submission of the year. That’s probably one of the highest accredited awards that I’ve ever achieved in my lifetime. So, I’m really really happy about that. But on top of that, it wasn’t a fluke and it wasn’t a turn of events. I literally trained my ass off. That’s my skillset. I set it up perfectly. The entire fight went perfect.”

A big moment for the rubber guard:

“Honestly, that was one of the biggest things that I wanted to accomplish, man. I wanted to show him [Bravo] and prove to the world that, hey man, this is legit. Prior to that, and even still to this day, there’s a lot of people that just don’t really believe in the rubber guard and don’t really give 10th Planet the credit I feel it deserves. I think it’s a phenomenal system, and to be able to almost have a perfect performance showcasing that, was probably the best thing I could have ever done to let the world know it’s legit.”

Before his last fight, a :17 armbar of Jacob Volkmann, Ben Saunders produced a 3-1 run inside of the UFC, but did not resign with the promotion.

“I had a lot going on, some stuff with my family at the time. Within the past year, I had my grandfather pass away, my grandmother passed away right before the Patrick Cote fight, and my uncle passed away. So, I had a lot going on with that. Honestly man, the biggest thing was probably just lack of communication. I was kind of dealing with management issues also, so that’s where the communication problems came into play.”

Returning to the UFC, but only after the mandatory USADA holding period:

“17 seconds was definitely a beautiful way to showcase my skillsets and kind of make a statement. I talked to Joe Silva afterwards, and we got back on track. If it wasn’t for the mandatory four-month USADA holding period, I would have already been fighting. I definitely wanted to get another fight in before the end of the year, but unfortunately, that wasn’t in the cards. Joe Silva and the UFC were kind enough to put me on the first card of the new year, and the first eligible fight card that I was capable of getting put on. On top of that, they got me on the main card against Court McGee, who is a very talented veteran in himself. I definitely think they see what I bring to the table and I’m glad to be back.”

Saunders first met his UFC Phoenix opponent, Court McGee, while helping Chuck Liddell prepare for Rich Franklin:

“I know Court and I know his coach [John] Hackleman. I’m friends with Hackleman. The first time I ever met Court, was when I flew out to help Chuck Liddell with Rich Franklin back in the day. He was actually at the house preparing for The Ultimate Fighter Finale, which he ended up winning. Court is a great guy. Honestly, his story is truly inspiring and it’s an honor to fight him. It’s definitely not a fight that I was like, calling out or anything, but we’re both professionals and come fight night, we’re going to put it all on the line and may the best man win.”

Coast to coast training camp:

“Predominately in Florida with American Top Team and Mejiro Gym Dutch kickboxing, but I did fly out to California to work with Eddie [Bravo] and Boogey and some samurais out there from 10th Planet to sharpen up and be well prepared.”

UFC Fight Night 103 prediction:

“Man, I’m coming in looking for a bonus haha. My prediction is, I got 8 wins on the feet to finish it, and if the fight goes to the ground, I got a lot of submissions that I’m going to be trying to throw up and throw his way. If I can man, I’m down to try to start the year right with a possible candidate for Submission of the Year. I’m always looking to entertain. I’m always looking to help evolve and change the game, man, so who knows.”

Your nickname “Killa B,” is that a Wu-Tang reference?

“Yeah, 100% man. Big fan of Wu-Tang. I got it from my teammates... Long story short, it was like a little scuffle situation happened downtown one time. Some drunk asshole just randomly started trying to like curse and get angry at me, and he didn’t like that I was laughing at him. He came and tried to attack me and I ended up hitting him with like a 5 or 6 hit combination, knocked him over a table. The next day my teammate told the rest of the teammates, ‘So then Ben hit him with the bee stingers and knocked him over the table.’ Everybody started laughing and thought it was hilarious and were like, ‘Killa B, with the bee stingers.’ Then they kept kind of fucking with me with that, and originally I was like, ‘Yeah, you guys are fucking assholes,’ but then it just stuck. I’m a big fan of Wu-Tang, so Wu-Tang Killa Bees, we on The Swarm.”

Favorite Wu member?

“Method Man.”

What has happened to hip-hop lately?

“[Sigh] It’s hard, man. Like fuck. You can say that, I guess, for any era in music. Fucking older people are like, their music is the best, this new stuff coming out is fucking garbage... hip-hop and rap is our generation but now, the radio is the absolute worst. I can’t fucking listen to the radio at all. It’s just absolute garbage that comes on there.”

Tyron Woodley vs. Stephen Thompson II at UFC 209:

“I’m going to have to go with my boy Woodley but fuck, “Wonderboy” is a hard matchup for anybody, man. He’s very dynamic with his striking and his kicks. I always find rematches kind of interesting because not only do they have the experience of the first fight, but it’s kind of like who’s going to either change, or be more confident in their skillset this time around. I mean fuck, it was so close that it turned into a draw that you got to wonder like, are you going to actually change a lot of shit, or are you going to be more confident and comfortable with what did worked and just be more weary of what didn’t work. As opposed to coming up with new gameplan shit. It’ll be very interesting, man.”

Watch Ben “Killa B” Saunders take on Court McGee on the UFC Fight Night 103 main card this Sunday. The Exclusive Fight Pass prelims begin at 6:15 P.M. EST. The prelims will start at 8:00 P.M. EST on FOX Sports 1 and will spill over into the main card at 10:00 P.M. EST. Stay tuned to Bloody Elbow for all of your UFC event coverage including interviews, play-by-play, highlights, and more!