On Saturday night (or Sunday morning in Abu Dhabi) the flyweight division finally crowned a new champion, and boy does it look like they’ve got a tough one to beat. Deiveson Figueiredo was simply too fast and too accurate and too deadly with his striking for Joseph Benavidez, who got dropped three times en route to getting choked unconscious at 4:48 of round 1 (see the finish here). We’ll definitely be getting back to Figueiredo in today’s coverage because wow, what a beast. But for now let’s check in on “Joey B” after what he admits was most likely his last title challenge.
Benavidez has been fighting for 14 years, 12 of those under the WEC/UFC umbrella. He’s come close to taking the bantamweight and then flyweight title multiple times, only to suffer defeat at the hands of some of the best ever: Dominick Cruz. Demetrious Johnson (twice). And now Deiveson Figueiredo ... twice. At least Benavidez is feeling better about this one, which was less competitive but didn’t end controversially after a freak headbutt.
“The last time was ... devastating because I couldn’t control it,” Benavidez said at the post-fight press conference. “It was out of my control. Going into this fight, I just want a fair fight. I wanted the guy to freaking make weight and I don’t want anything weird to happen. And you know, he went out there and proved he was the better guy. So it’s hard. You can’t sit here and feel sorry for yourself.”
“I was grateful for the opportunity to do it again, to get the opportunity to redeem the last fight,” he said, getting emotional. “So I was grateful for that from the beginning, grateful to do it here at Fight Island. Overall just grateful for life, that’s what it comes down to. To do it and be able to do this is a blessing in itself. And that’s just on the fight side, you know. Grateful for the opportunities and be able to do it.”
“Grateful for all my corners and them taking their time away from their families. They’ve been here for weeks away from their family, trapped in a hotel. I look at my wife ... I’m so grateful for that. Nothing can be bad at the end of the day, going home and having someone that makes you feel the best every day. So I sit here humbled. Grateful I got the opportunity to go out there and display what I prepared for. And ... it’s crazy. I’m walking around, it’s light outside, getting stitches in a van, just like life comes at you fast. I’m in an empty arena in Abu Dhabi at two in the morning in one hotel, being shipped over here. And now it’s six in the morning and I just got the s**t beat out of me. Like ... it’s crazy.”
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Talk turned to the future and what that might look like in the 35 year old Benavidez’s eyes.
“This is my fourth title shot,” he said. “It takes a lot of perseverance and no quit to be able to get there again and again and again. Even from this one to the last one, that was some of the hardest points in my life. The second to the third, going through 10 guys, 10 fights. That’s what I do. I love to do that. I’m prepared to do that. But when I had to face the last fight with everything that was out of my control, that was so hard on me mentally. So to come back from that. I remember how I felt after that fight, I couldn’t control it. How could I do everything perfect and something weird still happens?”
“I was obviously not broken, I never wanted to quit. But that really challenged me. So there’s no quit in me, man. I always wondered what I’d do if something was sunk in, would I tap or would I not? You gonna get choked anyway, but I guess I didn’t. I dunno. I’ll never quit, doing anything. I’ve always just tried to be the best. The best that I can be. That’s why this, this I can’t feel sorry for myself and I can accept, because I had the best preparation, the best team, felt good, felt ready, left no stone unturned ... just met a better younger freaking animal that was just better than me this morning.”
“My goal in this sport is to be the best, be the champion, right?” Benavidez continued. “I knew last fight was my last title attempt. It wasn’t, cuz of circumstances, but this one certainly was. I wasn’t fighting in this sport for any other reason than to be the best. I’ve been close. I’ve been lucky. I’ve been in that top two, three spot for 11 years at two weight classes. It’s been a crazy journey. It’s been awesome. I’m not going out like that. But ... nothing’s guaranteed in this sport for sure. I’m not going to get another title shot, and I don’t want to go out on that, so ... I just want to go out with another fight.”
“After that, there’s nothing else for me to do. I’m not going to beat 10 guys again. I know that was my last title shot but like I just said, I don’t want to go out on that. So to answer your question, I kinda said in my mind, I win the belt, defend it til I lose. Fight again til I win. Lose? Fight again til I win. That’s kind of where I’m at.”