There’s little argument that Joseph Benavidez is the No. 2 flyweight fighter on the planet. After all, Benavidez has won six fights in a row en route to amassing an impressive 12-2 UFC record.
Still, despite all of his efforts to hoist flyweight gold, Benavidez has been unable to get past current champion and pound-for-pound legend Demetrious Johnson. “Mighty Mouse” defeated Benavidez via split decision back in 2012 before smoking him with one punch in the rematch in 2013.
Those two losses to Johnson have essentially suspended Benavidez’s title hopes. It’s often difficult to sell a trilogy bout when only one fighter has tasted victory, but Benavidez is hoping that a win over Sergio Pettis at UFC 225 leads to another shot at “Mighty Mouse” in a rather depleted 125-pound class.
“For anyone who says I shouldn’t [get a shot] or that I’ve fought him twice or whatever — I realize when there is money to be made, maybe you’ll pick the No. 8 guy in the division because it will sell more,” explained Benavidez during a recent interview with ESPN. “But with our division, there’s not a star. Demetrious [Johnson]is the best fighter ever, and he’s not a star. So what do we really have? All we have is our talent. That’s what’s great about the division, you can see things that 125-pound guys can do that some other guys can’t. All we have is our skill. So if we don’t have a big fight, why wouldn’t you have the best fighters fight?”
It’s hard to argue with Benavidez. While the Team Alpha Male standout hasn’t fought since December 2016 he remains the second-best fighter on the flyweight roster. Henry Cejudo has proven to be a similar threat at 125 pounds, but Benavidez defeated “Messenger” via split decision back at TUF 24 Finale.
“I think we could fight 10 times and it would be just as exciting as him fighting anyone else,” said Benavidez. “I don’t think there’s such a thing as a big or small way of asking for this. What am I gonna do? Get an airplane and write it in the sky? The UFC knows I want it. They know I’m the next best guy. I think right now, there’s a valid point for me to not get a title fight, because of the injury. But if I win seven in a row, I don’t think there’s an argument against it anymore. […] No one realizes when fighters are out. They just remember their last fight and how they look now.”
If Benavidez is able to get past Pettis at UFC 225 on June 9 live on pay-per-view (PPV) from inside United Center in Chicago, Illinois, there isn’t much more he could do to prove his title worth. As a fighter who has only lost to Johnson and Dominick Cruz throughout his entire career, Benavidez was meant to be a perennial title contender no matter who the champion is.