SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 01: Joseph Benavidez attends the UFC on FX press conference at the Star Casino on March 1, 2012 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)
When Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) officials announced they would finally create a Flyweight division, they did so by creating a four-man tournament to crown the promotions first-ever 125-pound champion, which kicked off in Sydney, Australia, on March 3, 2012 at UFC on FX: "Alves vs. Kampmann."
Joseph Benavidez punched his ticket to the championship fight by defeating Yasuhiro Urushitani. The other qualifying bout, unfortunately, didn't go so smoothly. A scoring error showed that Demetrious Johnson and Ian McCall, which was originally scored for the former, had actually been a draw and they would have to go at it one more time to see who deserved the spot in the finals.
"Mighty Mouse" and "Uncle Creepy" finally settled the dispute three months later as Johnson defeated McCall just last weekend (June 8, 2012) at UFC on FX 3: "Johnson vs. McCall" via unanimous decision to keep the tournament rolling. Now, the highly anticipated title fight is going to have to wait a bit longer thanks to Johnson suffering a hernia during the second McCall bout.
Having not seen action since March, and possibly not getting back inside the Octagon until late this year, Benavidez has been sitting patiently, ready to claim his place in the history books by becoming the first every UFC flyweight title holder. Though the wait can be unnerving, Joseph says it's part of the game and when the time comes, fans are in for an "outstanding" fight.
Speaking to Pro MMA Radio, Joseph talks about the "frustrating" waiting game he has been forced to play as well as give his thoughts on his upcoming title fight with Johnson and opens up about a rarely talked about dark past that could have sent him down a road of destruction.
"The layoff has been a little frustrating. You know, I waited so long for this weight class to open and it finally opens and I was like, "Alright, were going to get rolling, I' going to be on T.V., I'm going to get this fight, I'm going to win the belt in my second fight." Now, I am back in the same position, kind of, just waiting at (1)25. There is nothing we can do about the debacle that happened, but, I just got to take the cards that are given to me and make a positive out of it. I could look at this and be like, "Oh my God, I have so much time off. I'm going to eat, vacation, and do this and do that." I don't party, so, I don't know what else I would do. Or, I could look at this time and make some improvements. That's all I've done. All this does is give me that much more time to get better. I am going to be a lot more dangerous fighter in October, November, September or where the fight happens, than I would have been in July or August because as a fighter I am getting better everyday."
With the inaugural UFC 125-pound title on the line, Benavidez assesses the upcoming battle with Johnson:
"It's going to be an awesome fight. Look at the divisions in the flyweight division so far. Every fight has been outstanding, action packed. The tournament fights, the two fights that were in Jersey with Dodson and Elliot and Gaudinot and Linecker. If you guys haven't seen those, go back and watch them, they were awesome. Every fight has been great and now we have the two very best guys in the division fighting for everything at stake. So, there is no way this can't just be and outstanding fight. Put me and "Mighty Mouse" just sparring together, rolling together or fighting in our backyard, it's going to be an exciting fight either way. Put us in there for the first flyweight title ever and it's going to be like a battle for the ages. In this division, I think I am better than anyone anywhere. At 135 I definitely thought I could beat everyone but I always had to adapt my game to a certain fighter. At this weight class, I could literally fight to all of my strengths. I think I have every strength advantage on D.J. I'm not delusional, I think he has the speed advantage on me, I think he has the speed advantage on anybody. But, it's not so much of an advantage that I can't make up for my timing and my power. My timing and my power are going to negate that speed on the feet and I think I have better submissions and our wrestling is both up there but I think I am better MMA grappling wise."
MMA aside, Benavidez touched on a subject he rarely talks about -- his family's troubled past. All the success he is currently enjoying could have been nothing but a dream never realized had he kept on the path he was going after his college days:
"It's been a bit of a tough road for me. Every male in my family has had either a drinking or drug problems. I was the same in that department. I am the only one in my family actually not to go to prison, as far as my immediately family. My father went to prison when I was a kid at 6 or 7. So I ended up not growing up with him and that was because of drugs and alcohol. All through my run in the UFC my younger brother and my older brother have been in prison the last four years, so I haven't had the support of them. I kind of saw myself down the same road. I was never really a bad kid, but I think it was kind of in my blood to be addicted to drugs and drinking. When I went back from college and lived in New Mexico, I didn't really have much to do. I had a regular job and I wasn't competing in anything. All through college and after, I got pretty deep into it where I was drinking and really doing drugs every single day. It just came to a point where I knew I didn't want to live that life anymore and I didn't necessarily think I was going to turn it around and be a fighter on be on the cover of magazines. That's just what happened through trying to better my life. I just didn't want to do what I was doing anymore. That just wasn't me. I was hurting a lot of people and letting a lot of people down. The way it happened, I was basically at the lowest point of my life I could be. Me and my buddy made a pact to kind of stop drinking and stop living the way we were. The great thing about that now is I'm doing what I'm doing and my friend who also stopped drinking with me, now graduated from medical school and he is a doctor."
In what truly is a success story, Benavidez, along with his friend, of course, managed to turn their lives around to a much brighter path, leaving behind their trouble past. For Joseph, it will truly be a fairytale ending if he can manage to get past the explosive Johnson in his title fight and go down in the history books in the process by claiming the first-ever flyweight strap.
When the next chapter in his life will be written remains to be seen and much like Benavidez, we all wait patiently.