Benoit Saint Denis: Grappling at ADXC provides motivation after ‘difficult fight’ with Dustin Poirier

Benoit Saint Denis returns to action this Saturday, but it won’t be inside the UFC octagon.

“God of War” is slated to headline ADXC 4 in a grappling showdown versus fellow UFC lightweight Marc Diakiese in his native France. When the bout was offered, the lightweight contender saw it as the perfect way to stay active and recharge after losing a highly-anticipated fight with Dustin Poirier at UFC 299 in March.

“It’s good stuff to stay a bit active, to keep training and to stay motivated after the difficult fight I had in Miami,” Saint Denis told MMA Fighting. “ADXC is coming to France, a big stage for professional grappling. I’m training in every art of the mixed martial arts. I was happy, I took the challenge right away.”

A black belt in judo and brown belt in jiu-jitsu, Saint Denis competes under grappling rules for the first time since 2019, and apparently, Diakiese was not the first name thrown his way. According to Saint Denis, ADXC approached his team with the idea of booking him against ex-Bellator champion Brent Primus and then UFC contender Arman Tsarukyan.

Saint Denis sees Diakiese as “a very experienced guy in the UFC, a good name to face,” and the fact he doesn’t have many submissions in MMA, unlike Saint Denis’ near 70-percent submission rate in the sport, makes the matchup a “bit tricky.”

“He’s very athletic, and against all the strikers he has been facing in the UFC, he has been wrestling,” Saint Denis said. “You see against [Viacheslav] Borshchev. When he’s against a striker, he wrestles. And when he’s against a wrestler, he strikes. He’s a well-rounded guy. His ground [game] is good, but I think in the grappling department, he’s a better wrestler than a grappler. But his wrestling is very good.

“The time period of the fight [five three-minute rounds] is also tricky because a very good wrestler, athletic as he is, can be dangerous decision-wise. That’s the complicated part, because [with] five minutes, usually the guy starts to get tired after three minutes and then you can work your positions a little bit more. Three minutes is very fast.”

Even though Saint Denis is focused on climbing the UFC rankings to one day hold the undisputed belt, he’s not taking this challenge lightly.

“I’m taking this as a way to stay active and to have fun in there, but, of course, I’m a warrior. I’m a competitor,” Saint Danis. “I will be competitive that day. It’s to reconnect and to have fun a lot.”

Asked if he’s open to bigger challenges in the grappling world, such as competing at ADCC, the French talent said he likes the idea, but only when he’s able to focus 100 percent on the task.

“I think the ADCC is very serious and I would like to compete in it, but it will be after my MMA career, I do believe,” Saint Denis said. “It’s a lot of time investment to be very competitive. And if I’m doing it, I’m doing it to win it all. I have the same mindset in MMA. Stuff like this to have fun sometimes is good, but if you want to win the ADCC obviously, it means you are one of the best grapplers in the world. You have to invest a lot of time in it.

“As you can see, even a talented and high-level grappler like Demian Maia had no time to try competing in the ADCC during his MMA career. You have to make choices. You want to be the best MMA fighter or the best grappler? It’s two different things. Even if a lot of skills are common, 50 percent of the work is different, even more than that. It’s different disciplines.”

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