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Ben Saunders has Nothing to Prove, but Not Done Fighting Just Yet

Longtime vet headlines Saturday's FURY Professional Grappling 4 event on UFC Fight Pass and is aiming for a 20-year pro career.

This month marks 18 years that Ben Saunders has been a professional mixed martial artist, and while "Killa B" isn't exactly the sentimental type, he admits he's pretty proud of his accomplishments in that run.

"When I look at my record and the people I have fought, I'm like, 'Dude, I've never had a gimme,'" Saunders told MMA Underground. "I've never had people with losing records and people that I was supposed to smoke or like coming off a loss, and you're going against a guy and you're just like, 'OK, this is just to get back in the win column.'

"From the jump, you know, against Crafton Wallace on three days' notice, a former ISKA kickboxing champion – the guy made it to the UFC, as well. I look at my entire career, I'm like, 'Oh my God, I've got basically 40 fights against all people that have deserved and earned the right to fight me.' There's literally been no gimmes, and I feel that has got to be one of the rarest things in the game to see."

Ben Saunders.

Ben Saunders.

That fight against Wallace took place in May 2004. Three years later, Saunders was a contestant on "The Ultimate Fighter 6," where he was coached by UFC Hall of Famer Matt Serra.

Saunders (23-13-2) came up short in the tournament, losing to eventual finalist Tommy Speer, but he was awarded a UFC contract, fighting seven times for the promotion in his first run with the company and facing the likes of Marcus Davis, Jon Fitch, Dennis Hallman and Mike Swick.

Three tournament runs with Bellator would follow, where Saunders twice reached the final, only to come up short each time against former Bellator champ Douglas Lima.

Undeterred, Saunders returned to the UFC to compete 12 more times for the promotion between 2014 and 2019, including a historic submission win via omoplata, the first such finish in the organization's history.

Saunders has fought once since ending his second UFC run, picking up a decision win over fellow octagon veteran Ramsey Nijem this past July, and he believes at 39, he's got a few more appearances left in him.

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"I for sure train at least five times a week," Saunders said. "My fight career is not officially over yet. I've still got some more left in me, so I'm still training everything."

Ben Saunders.

Ben Saunders.

On Saturday, the Eddie Bravo black belt will feed his desire for competition when he takes on current UFC welterweight contender Sean Brady in the featured bout of FURY Professional Grappling 4, which streams live from Philadelphia's 2300 Arena on UFC Fight Pass, the UFC's online streaming service.

The submission grappling event marks a two-night run for the organization at the venue, which also plays host to an MMA event, "CFFC 109: Sousa vs. Chaulet," on Friday.

"It's a different sport aspect, but man, I feel the submission-only game is kind of becoming its own thing and kind of blowing up big time over the past two years or so," Saunders said. "It's going to be a good time being able to get back in there and competing at a high level, and FURY Grappling seems to be one of the best, if not the best, shows or promotions going on right now.

"I'm a competitor fully, so you know we're going to both go in there, and it's going to be a good time, but we're both obviously going to be looking to choke each other out or break something."

Afterward, Saunders is open to all options. While he knows the end of his combat sports career is nearing, it's not here just yet. Another two full years seems awfully tempting. Wrap it up in May 2024, giving him 20 years as a pro.

"If I've got to throw a date on it, that's a date that I would be happy with to just be like, 'Yeah, you know what? Twenty years in the game,'" Saunders said. "I don't have anything left to prove right now. It's just the love of the sport at this point. At this point in my career, I'm just looking for something that's either legacy-based or something that's like a fun matchup that gets me fired up to get up in the morning and really kill myself in the gym, you know?

"And if there is maybe some additional things I would love more than anything, one final fight in the UFC to call it quits would be amazing. I don't think I need to do the 'put my gloves in the center of the ring' type of deal, but it would be a dope way to go out."

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