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UFC Fresno: Luke Sanders ‘pissed and upset, but not surprised’ that Bryan Caraway pulled out of fight

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UFC bantamweight Luke Sanders spoke about this weekend’s fight with Andre Soukhamthath, which was supposed to be against the ranked Bryan Caraway.

UFC bantamweight Luke Sanders received the first loss of his MMA career in March after Yuri Alcantara caught him in a last gasp leglock at UFC 209. However, Sanders — who fights Andre Soukhamthath at UFC Fight Night: Swanson vs. Ortega — sees the Alcantara result as a loss that only exists on paper.

“In my mind, if we had been in my kitchen or my yard, he wouldn’t have left,” said Sanders to Bloody Elbow. “Those knees would have kept coming. He would of never left. I would have walked out.”

The knees Sanders referred to are part of the relentless barrage of strikes Sanders landed on Alcantara for one and a half rounds. Many onlookers thought the fight could have been stopped in the first, and possibly the second. In the first round an errant knee landed on the downed Alcantara’s head, prompting referee Marc Goddard to stop the action.

After informing Sanders of the infringement, Goddard deducted a point. The deduction would never factor into the result, though — thanks to Alcantara’s successful Hail Mary submission attempt.

“The point thing was weird,” remembered Sanders. “Because the ref sat there and chewed me out and then took a point. I apologized, but he was just a little harsh on the way he acted against me; in deducting a point and talking to me the way he did.”

The dominant display, which still resulted in a loss, gave Sanders a lot to evaluate. “There’s a million different reasons why I lost that fight,” he said. “I looked at it and I didn’t blame it on one thing. I blamed it on a million things. It was just a complacent second. That’s what makes watching mixed martial arts so exciting, that it can only take a second for things to change. So I just need to not be complacent [in the future].”

Sanders said that, even though Alcantara left the fight with a win, he left a permanent impact on the Brazilian; one which he claimed would never be forgotten.

“I feel like I broke that dude,” he boasted. “I mean, he just hasn’t looked the same since he fought me. I did that man bad. I beat his face up. I won that fight, but I didn’t get the W on paper. He didn’t beat me up. He didn’t break me. He pretty much got lucky. It is what it is, but I broke him. He’s still broken. He’s never going to be the same. You add up the punch count. 120 something to what? 20? He’s not the same. He won’t never be the same. He’s got that in the back of his mind; being pounded.”

That performance, paired with his debut win over Maximo Blanco, has Sanders believing he belongs at the highest level. “The UFC is where I should be,” he said. “It’s official. A fighter is not just what I am now, it’s a career, too.”

For the next step in his MMA career, Sanders was due for a big step-up in competition. After a bout with Felipe Arantes fell through for UFC Fight Night: Rockhold vs. Branch, Sanders was matched up with top ten bantamweight Bryan Caraway for UFC Fresno.

However, a few weeks from the event, Caraway pulled out with an undisclosed injury.

Sanders had believed that stopping Caraway could have put him just one win away from a title fight. So when the veteran of The Ultimate Fighter: Team Bisping vs. Team Miller pulled out, Sanders was not pleased at all. Although, he explained, he was half-expecting it.

“Honestly, I’m not f—king surprised one bit,” said Sanders moments after learning Caraway was out of their fight. “Before I found out, probably like 24 to 48 hours ago, I had like a weird feeling he was going to pull out or that he wasn’t going to show up. I had a feeling that he wasn’t going to commit and hold up his end of the deal. Honestly, when I heard, I was pissed and upset, but not surprised.”

Sanders added that it was disappointing that, according to him, “some people in this business’ aren’t professional.” Sanders also said he spent about an hour feeling sorry for himself about losing the opportunity to fight Caraway before deciding to move on and focus on the task ahead.

“It sucks, you know, but dwelling on it is not going to change anything. It sucks if he’s injured or if he can’t make weight. I heard a bunch of different stuff. I heard he was out of shape and I guess he has a reputation for this kind of thing. So I don’t really know what’s going on. Hopefully, if he is injured or whatever, it’s not too bad. But yeah it sucks.”

Stepping in on short notice for Caraway is Andre Soukhamthath (11-5), who is 0-2 in the UFC after debuting against Albert Morales at UFC 209 in March. Soukhamthath’s other UFC fight came against Alejandro Perez at UFC Fight Night: Pettis vs. Moreno.

All Sanders said he knew about his new opponent was that he was “a tough kid.” As far as his game-plan is concerned, Sanders didn’t reveal whether or not he needed to make any big changes based on the opponent change.

“I’m just going to go out there and do what I plan to do every time I go in the cage. And that’s handle business and get a win.”

Sanders did state that he hopes, after the Soukhamthath fight, his and Caraway’s paths are matched up again.

“I’m always down to fight,” he said. “Especially a numbered guy. I plan on taking all their spots. So if he’s healthy and he wants to be a fighter, then he’s going to get fight with me.”

Luke Sanders vs. Andre Soukhamthath goes down on the preliminary card of UFC Fight Night: Swanson vs. Ortega. The prelims begin at 8PM ET on FOX Sports 1.

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