“My goal was always that I wanted 10 fights because that to me solidifies a career in the UFC,” said Saenz, who has trained at Phoenix’s Fight Ready for the duration of his professional career, and watched the outfit expand in recent years.
“For me, I just wanted to get in tune because I’ve never really had a full team or camp of specialists, so I just wanted to get in sync with those guys and learn, absorb all this knowledge,” he said of working with coaches like Eddie Cha, Alan Viers, Angel Cejudo, and Chad Ikei in advance of his return this weekend. “I’m at a point now where this is the most complete camp and group of guys I’ve had around me and I’ve always wanted to have that.
“You’re competing against all these teams like ATT and Alpha Male and Jackson-Wink and they have specialists — striking coach, wrestling coach, strength and conditioning — and that’s just something that I’ve never had and I have always wondered, ‘If I had a full camp with all these guys, what can I do?’”
Now that he’s got that training camp behind him, how is the returning veteran feeling just a few days out from his first trip back into the Octagon since the birth of his son?
“The excitement is definitely building, and I feel like when I first got in,” he admitted, the anticipation evident in his voice. “I’m at that point where it’s, ‘Man, I can’t wait to get in there.’
“I feel like I got to a point before where I was so worried about preparation, but now I know the preparation has been done. Now I’m just looking forward to the fight, getting in there, and putting my hands on Jonathan Martinez. I haven’t had this feeling since I first got into the UFC. I just can’t wait to get in there.”
Luckily for Saenz, he only has to wait a couple more days.
Then, Saturday night, he’ll walk to the cage for his tenth UFC fight, test himself against Martinez, and if everything goes as planned, stand triumphant in the center of the Octagon, knowing that Laila and Luke are watching at home as their dad continues to set the same kind of positive example his father set for him.
“My whole family is going to be watching, and man,” he began, pausing to find the words. “Going in there, doing what I said I was going to do — it’s something special for me because I want to be motivating for my kids.”