TaikwonJoe: An MMAmania interview exclusive with Joseph Benavidez (Part one)

Joseph Benavidez is a man of many names. 

Not having a nickname of his own, the current number two ranked bantamweight in the world decided to let the fans get involved and pick one for his last fight, his UFC debut against Ian Loveland at UFC 128 this past March. 

After some tumultuous voting, they finally decided upon "Joe B-Wan Kenobi," and he was victorious with a hard-fought unanimous decision victory, but the nickname was only temporary.

Benavidez is back this Sunday night, with a new name, to face former WEC bantamweight champion Eddie Wineland on the undercard of UFC on Versus 5 and he spoke with MMAmania.com about changes in his training, his thoughts on his opponent and the strength of his own chin.

I offer Joe some nicknames of my own after the jump.

Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): I heard you were looking for some new nicknames for your upcoming fight. I was wondering if you would accept some late submissions? I've got a few.

Joseph Benavidez: (laughs) It might be [too late], but I can hold them off for my next fight.

Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): TaikwonJoe?

Joseph Benavidez: Not bad. I like it.

Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): JoeDaddy.com?

Joseph Benavidez: (laughs) Ok, that one's good.

Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): The Jumbo Shrimp

Joseph Benavidez: Oh that's a really good one. (laughs) For this upcoming fight, the final voting was down to two nicknames I've been given from the gym, "The Juice Box" and "Beefcake," which I've been called for a while. The two that the fans made up, the winners were "President Joe-bama" which I like because you can't get much bigger than the President, the head guy in charge. He's in control of everything. We've also got "The Joe-mo sapien" which for me was special because it's like the evolution of man. It was cool to be a Homo sapien, but now the Joe-mo sapien is coming along, we're evolving. I already have my own martial art of Joe-jitsu so I might as well have my own species of man.

Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): (laughs) I saw a recent training picture where you'd been working with Robert Drysdale. Is that something you've been doing for a while, or is that new?

Joseph Benavidez: Yeah, that's definitely new. My last two camps, one time I took two weeks and this time I took 10 days to go out and train in Las Vegas. For me, it's the same thing, just kinda evolving, getting different stuff in with different trainers. There's so much to learn. You've always got to be evolving in this sport. I already feel that I have the best team that I could ask for, the best training partners. I'm not gonna find better training partners than I train with every day, but it's still good to find different training partners. I already have the best trainer, but it helps to mix in a different trainer.

Sometimes, just the different look and everything is better. I can go with the best guys in the world, but the fact that we know each other, it's good to mix it up. I actually want to give a big thanks this camp to Shawn Tompkins. He really helped me a lot. Him and the guys down there at the Tapout Training Center just helped me a ton and I think I've gotten better from it and added some new stuff to my game and I plan on continuing working with them. I'm in Vegas a lot so it's good to find a good team and good people that have the same goals to train with while I'm over there. As you mentioned, I also went to Robert Drysdale's jiu-jitsu which was a great experience as well.

Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Shawn Tompkins is an incredible striking coach. Do you feel that what he's been teaching you is really something you'll be able to utilize against Eddie Wineland, who's a very powerful striker?

Joseph Benavidez: Yeah, hopefully. I feel like already I can strike with anyone in the division. Obviously, Dominick Cruz is known for having one of the most difficult to handle stand-up games. I think I beat him both times that I fought him in striking and if he wouldn't have took me down, I would have won the fight. I feel like even in the last one, the one judge had me winning the fight. I already think I can stand with everyone, but it never hurts to always try and get better. I know in this sport, you've got keep learning, keep evolving and there's always different techniques out there that you might not get if you train with the same people every single day. There's a lot of good stuff from Tompkins. I've had about three and a half solid weeks with him and the great thing about that is I record it and it stays in my head. Even though I'm not training with him when I come back to camp, I kind of work on the things that I liked and I'm already seeing some of the stuff used in practice and it's working out fine.

Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Going back to the Wineland fight. I heard that he actually asked for this fight after he lost to Faber. What did you think about that?

Joseph Benavidez: That's what I heard too and I was very shocked about that. My first reaction was that maybe he was drunk or something at an after party and he didn't know what he was talking about. That was my first reaction. I don't know what he's thinking. If he thinks that just because he gave [Urijah] Faber a good fight, he can just switch up a few things and beat me or give me a good fight, I think he's totally wrong about that and he's gonna learn the hard way.

You hear a lot of guys saying they want to fight the best guys in the world and it's something that he really wants to do and if he believes in himself and really wants to kinda float to the top of the division by fighting me, more power to him. I credit him for wanting to fight the toughest guys in the world, but it's not a smart move. Usually coming in off a loss, you want to take a fight, not exactly a tune-up fight, but something you can win, a guy that's at the same point as you. Like I said, if he thinks it's gonna be easy and help him move back up in the rankings, he's totally wrong. If he wants to fight the toughest guys in the world, he came to the right place and I'm gonna show him why.

Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): How much of a benefit is it for you that your friend and training partner, Urijah Faber, has spent a full 15 minutes with him in the cage very recently?

Joseph Benavidez: That's huge. For me, it feels like I've basically gone through two camps fighting Eddie Wineland. Obviously Urijah's my main training partner so we watched a lot of tape and I kind of helped Urijah when he was sparring for him and I was kind of simulating Eddie Wineland from watching the footage. You can watch all the footage you want, but there's no replacement and nothing you can do to match the experience of actually being in there with him in the heat of battle for 15 minutes and my teammate and main training partner, one my best friends, Urijah, was in there with him for 15 minutes. He knows exactly how he feels, what he does, how he reacts and how he feels in different positions. That's kind of invaluable information and experience there that I'm going to be able to use so, yeah, I definitely think it's gonna help me and it can't really help him at all that he just fought Urijah and now is fighting me. It's almost like he's gonna think that we're gonna be the same fighter and he'll just have to tweak some small things and he'll get better but it's not gonna be like that at all and he's gonna learn the hard way.

Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Eddie's one of the most powerful punchers that you've faced. I saw an interview with him and he said that he wanted to test your chin. If for some reason, he actually lands a big strike on you, how would you rate your ability to take a big punch?

Joseph Benavidez: I think I've had some of my teammates in practice tell me it's impossible to knock me out or stun me. I think the main reason for that is because if you look at my fights, I don't really get punched cleanly, you know? I've fought a lot of faster guys and a lot more stiff strikers than him and they haven't hit me clean. He's not nearly as fast as some of the guys that I've fought so he's gonna have a really hard time hitting me clean. He didn't hit Urijah clean and I don't think he's that fast. I can't even remember him having a knockout against a high level opponent. He can probably hit hard and he's stunned some other guys but it's gonna be a totally different ballgame with me.

So what do you think Maniacs? 

Is Benavidez correct about being too hot for Wineland to handle on Sunday night? Or will his confidence come back to bite him?

Sound off!

We'll continue tomorrow with part two, where Benavidez discusses his current purgatory in the division, his frustrations with being on the undercard and why flyweight is something he absolutely has to try.

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