UFC Fight Night 81’s Ben Saunders says goal after 2010 release was always to return to the UFC

By Jamie Penick, MMATorch Editor-in-Chief

Ben Saunders fights Patrick Cote Sunday night in an attempt to extend a three fight winning streak to four, all in the UFC since making his return in 2014. The 32-year-old spent 11 fights out of the organization after a 2010 release, but his goal was always to make it back into the Octagon.

Into the event this week, he talked about that drive to make it back in an interview with FoxSports.com, and explained why he’s just more than happy to be where he is in 2016.

“Anybody’s that’s been following my career, especially when I got cut from the UFC the first time, I made a big statement on my social media letting everybody know where I was mentally and what my goals were,” Saunders said. “I had no issues with the cut, the cut was pretty straight forward.  The entire welterweight division was overrun by great wrestlers and I needed to step my ground game up. They never said anything about my stand up because that was looking sharp even with my exit from the UFC.

“But I made a promise to myself right then and there – I will make it back to the UFC and prove that I’m UFC caliber… Honestly, I can’t tell the world enough just how grateful I am to be back with the UFC. I have no issues whatsoever. I’ve told them, throw me on the damn undercard. Make me the first fight of the night, I have no problem with that.”

Penick’s Analysis: Saunders has been an entertaining fighter his entire career, and though the release was justified at the time – and though he had a good run while in Bellator as well – he’s where he belongs right now. If he can keep himself competitive and entertaining, the UFC is going to keep him around. He may never be in the top end of the mix, and it doesn’t seem that’s necessarily what he’s going for anyway, but so long as he remains moderately successful, he’s going to hold a spot for a while.

[Photo (c) Dennis Wierzbicki via USA Today Sports]

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