411 MMA Interviews: Joseph Benavidez
Posted by Jeffrey Harris on 08.20.2012
411's Jeffrey Harris sits down for an exclusive interview with #1 contender and main event fighter for UFC 152, Joseph Benavidez! See what he has to say about being a part of UFC's inaugural flyweight championship fight and more!
On September 22, UFC will finally crown their first flyweight (125 lbs.) champion at UFC 152 in Toronto. Top flyweight contender Joseph Benavidez (16-2, MMA; 3-0, UFC) will face off against Demetrious "Mighty Mouse" Johnson (15-2-1, MMA; 3-1-1, UFC) in the long-awaited finals of the UFC flyweight tournament. In March at UFC on FX: Alves vs. Kampmann, Benavidez defeated former Shooto champion Yasuhiro Urushitani to clinch his spot in the title fight. Unfortunately, his wait to fight for the title was extended due to a scoring addition error on the same card for the other semifinal fight between Ian McCall and Demetrious Johnson. The waiting will soon be over next month as Benavidez finally gets his first UFC title shot and main event spot. Recently, 411mania.com got the chance to speak with Benavidez for an exclusive interview to talk about the biggest fight of his career:
Jeffrey Harris: How are you feeling going into the biggest fight of your career, the biggest fight of your life bar none?
Joseph Benavidez: Aw man yeah. I'm feeling amazing. This is history. I'm up for any fight. I'm up to train. I love it. This is what I do. So put a title on the line, nonetheless make it the first ever UFC flyweight title and man . . . like I said, I'm just more motivated and inspired than ever. I can't wait to do this. I'm going to give all the fans that watch a night to remember. I'll be training my butt off. I've got an amazing opponent. And like I said, we're making history out there. Every fighter in our weight class has been incredibly entertaining and now you have the two best guys going at it with everything on the line. It's going to be a night to remember, and it's going to be fun. It's everything I've ever worked for since I started the sport. It all comes to this. This is what we do it for. Everyone in this sport does it to be in this spot, and it's happening for me man. This is awesome.
Jeffrey Harris: This is a good match-up for you with Demetrious Johnson. You both have wins over Miguel Torres. You both faced Dominick Cruz in title fights at bantamweight. Johnson has a very good wrestling base and he's very fast and quick with his striking. He's never been finished before. So what do you think about Demetrious Johnson and the challenges he poses for you?
Joseph Benavidez: He's an amazing opponent. I'm really just to have this opportunity with him. I think we're definitely the two best guys and this is a fight people wanted to do at 135. Now we get to do it where we're both at our best fighting weight so it's going to make it that much better. But I've always respected Demetrious as a person and a fighter. That's why I'm really so excited to share this opportunity with him. But I'm not going to hold back in there. That belt's mine. I want that title more than anything, so I'm going to go after him and he poses great threats. He's one of the best fighters in the world. He was at '35, so at '25 he's definitely a handful. I don't think there's anybody in the sport that's as fast as him, so that's something that's going to be new. But it's not like I'm slow. I think I can negate that with my speed and also my power and timing. But like I said, it's going to be an incredible match-up and I'm just looking for honestly to go into the hardest 25 minutes of my life. That's what I'm preparing – is just the hardest, worst 25 minutes I can possibly go through. And when I usually prepare like that, hopefully I get the finish in between, but he's never been finished or really beat on the feet and I think I can do and show everyone I'm going to be a dominant champ at this weight class and I'm one of the best fighters in the world today at any weight.
Jeffrey Harris: What do you think of Demetrious Johnson's two fights with Ian McCall at flyweight? Their first fight ultimately ended in a draw, and Johnson summarily won the rematch. And also what did you think of his bantamweight title fight with Dominick Cruz he lost last year?
Joseph Benavidez: I've been impressed by every single one of Demetrious' fights that I've seen ever. He always seems like he's the smaller guy and the underdog and he comes out just with straight heart and he usually comes out on top. But his fight against Dominick Cruz, going into it he was just way smaller, and he was one of the few guys that actually gave Dominick Cruz a run for his money and actually beat him on the feet. Dominick had to resort to his wrestling similar to my fight. I don't think Dominick wrestled me as easy as he did Mighty Mouse, but I think we both gave Cruz a good battle on our feet but Demetrious even more so. If he was the same size, Demetrious could've came out on top in that fight. But like I said, Cruz is just bigger. His two fights against Ian [McCall] were amazing. I actually scored the first one a draw. I wish it would've went to the fourth round and we'd already have a champion. But it was also awesome to watch their second fight, and I think in that one – what impressed me the most is how much he improved from one to the other. It looked like McCall went in there and fought the same exact fight and Mighty Mouse came out a whole different fighter. I don't know if it was his second weight cut and he was probably a little more comfortable at it. But yeah, he came out and he just improved and that's probably a lot of credit going to his coaches also just for that improvement in the wrestling game and stopping McCall's wrestling and using some wrestling of his own.
Jeffrey Harris: When you went down to flyweight you were really still one of the top bantamweights in the world. Your only losses were to the still reigning, undefeated champion –
Joseph Benavidez: It was the only split decision he's [Cruz] had against anybody. So pretty good fight.
Jeffrey Harris: But what has it been like, this transition down to flyweight for you, and also getting the first finish of the flyweight division over Yasuhiro Urushitani?
Joseph Benavidez: Oh this has been a great – it's definitely something I've been looking forward to for a long time. They've been talking about the flyweight class so long . . . it came to a point where I was just like, "Dang it's not going to happen. I'm just going to concentrate on being a 35'er and get big." And I think I was the best fighter at '35, definitely the most dangerous and that I could've beaten anybody at that weight. But it was great when it finally came down. I was kind of stuck in an odd position at 135, so I honestly felt like I not only had a new life on my career but just a whole new life in general because my career is my life. It gave me a place where I didn't have to worry about the champion who I lost to twice. I didn't have to worry about my people asking me to fight my teammate and mentor, one of my best friends Urijah Faber, and I didn't have to worry about that. I could go down, fight at a weight class, and then physically it was just what I expected. I felt like I was in better shape. I kept all my strength. I think I became faster and even had better cardio. And I think I already had great cardio in the past. It's definitely my weight class and I'm just looking to make it my weight class for a long time.
Jeffrey Harris: And it wasn't a bad cut for you, right?
Joseph Benavidez: Yeah, it wasn't bad actually. I actually have to do it different this time on my second time around because honestly it was so easy the first time, I think I walked around a little bit too late. I was a month out, and I was walking around at 130 lbs. – 131 lbs. which – I shouldn't be that until about the week of the fight. So walking around a little bigger this time and going to do it right. But the weight cut was easy and not only that but it made me gain certain focus and discipline that I didn't really need at 135. At 135, I would obviously train hard but I didn't have to be disciplined in my eating and all the small, little professional things. At '25, everything had to be by the book as far as my food, diet, and meals and everything. And like I said it gave me a certain focus and me focused is even more dangerous.
Jeffrey Harris: How frustrating was it back in March after you finished Urushitani, the whole tournament was put on hold because Craig Waller, executive director of the Combat Sports Authority of New South Wales, didn't add up the scores properly?
Joseph Benavidez: Yeah, it was pretty frustrating especially initially because I waited so long for the weight class to open. I waited from my fight with Wineland in August to March when I usually would've fought in November-December, but they were talking about starting the weight class. So I waited that long already. I was a little frustrated in the beginning, but you just got to take it for what it is. In this sport, stuff like that happens. And you can either take it as a negative and be like, "Oh, I have so much time off. This sucks. I can travel and eat and get as big as I want." Or I can take it as a time where, "I have this much time to get that much better." And as a fighter, I'm improving every day so I feel if we would've fought in July compared to now when we're fighting in September, I'm going to be a more skilled, dangerous fighter in September just because I'm training more. I just turned it into a positive and switched up my training. I think I just became a better fighter.
Jeffrey Harris: You are also part of this year's UFC Team Edge, for the Team Edge shave gel contest. And according to the website, you're leading the votes right now with 46% over Chris Weidman, Rory MacDonald, and John Dodson. How's that feel?
Joseph Benavidez: It feels amazing. It feels amazing just to be picked by a company as Edge. It's a dream come true to have a brand like them backing me and being a part of that. We have four amazing fighters also that they picked. So to just be in the same company as those guys is amazing. To be leading the voting ahead of those guys has just been an awesome feeling. I'm always trying to be a good to my fans because they are so good to me. That just shows how loyal my Jomosapiens are, that's what I call my fans, and it just shows how loyal they are and dedicated to this. I know they're out there voting every day for me to do this. So it feels great just to be backed by a company like Edge. I'm so looking forward to representing them. It's a dream come true. This is – like I said about the title – this is why we do it. We want to be in the limelight, get those deals, and do this while we can. It's what we work for. So to see those dreams coming true, it's an unreal feeling.
Jeffrey Harris: Your fans are Jomosapiens?
Joseph Benavidez: The Jomosapiens. A homosapien is like a regular human. We're a Jomosapien where like homosapiens evolve into Jomosapiens.
Jeffrey Harris: Dominick Cruz is the mentor and coach of Team Edge. How does this work exactly? I know your friend Urijah Faber is not the biggest fan of Cruz and you've fought him twice. So what's it like working with him in this promotion?
Joseph Benavidez: You know I haven't had to deal with him as much for the promotion. Basically last year when it was Chad [Mendes], Mr. Wonderful [Phil Davis], and Michael McDonald, they had a mentor BJ Penn who was already a good name to promote [the contest] and he promoted the contest so people would vote. And that's basically what it is. So they get a champion, a great champion as in Dominick Cruz, who is obviously a little more popular than and has a bit a more followers; so they get him this year to kind of promote the contest. I just had to deal with him a little bit at a summit we had at the beginning. I actually don't mind dealing with Cruz at all. Him and Faber have their beef, but I totally respect the guy. Obviously he's the only guy to beat me and we've had two excellent battles, and I feel like we get along fine. Even our backgrounds and moods have a little bit in common. So we get along. We shared some good laughs, and it's not bad any time I get to visit with Dominick and catch up on things. He's not a bad guy.
Jeffrey Harris: Now Michael Bisping, he's also fighting at UFC 152 in the co-main event against Brian Stann. He said, "No one cares about little flyweights," and that his fight with Stann is the real main event. What do you have to say to Bisping about that?
Joseph Benavidez: I've been talking about it. If you didn't catch the video at the press conference, I just kind of had to let him know how it is, of course without making it too personal. It's Michael Bisping, that's what he looks for. He kind of looks for a rise in people and everything. And once you do that, you're almost playing into his game. And that's what he wants. He wants to talk. You can expect something ridiculous to come out of Bisping's mouth. So you can't play into it. That's basically what he does. That's kind of what he knows for. I just told him, "Hey. That's what Michael Bisping." It's not going to change the fact that me and Mighty Mouse are the two best guys in the world, we're trying right now to get to the level performance wise that he is and go for this UFC title. So it's not going to change that we're making history that night, we're the main event, and we're the two best guys in our weight class. I think at the press conference it was pretty funny. I patted him on the back, and I said, "Hey. Congrats on the co-main event. And it's good to you have you on our card." Everyone that supports us and respects us and is excited for this fight: thanks and we love you guys of course. And I think these guys know what they're talking about. And everyone who doesn't, including Bisping, they soon will once this fight is over . . . so I think it's just a matter of time.
Jeffrey Harris: Do you think there's maybe a little jealousy you're in a main event fighting for a UFC title which he has never done?
Joseph Benavidez: Yeah, there's probably a little bit of bitterness in there as well. It happens to be people that are smaller than him and newer than him, kind of like the new breed. He feels like he's been in there forever, but hey man I've worked just as hard if not harder than him for the last few years. And like I said, we're the best two guys in the world. He's been in there and hasn't got to that level yet. I've got nothing personal against Bisping, and I like him but those are the facts. Everyone wants to talk about power and this and that, but it's like, "Hey. We get our knockouts. We get our submissions." People say there's been one finish in the six flyweights, but you can catch any string of middleweight [and] light heavyweight fights where in six fights there is no knockout and no one says a thing. If six 205 fights only have one knockout, no one is going to say that, but the fact that we're little and new that's what people want to say. One thing that the heavier weights is what we do in there. They're never going to be able to have the highly entertaining style, scrambles, combos, and speed that we have. So I just think honestly every big guy wants to fight like a small guy. And if you get a big guy to fight like a small guy, they win. If a small guy fights like a big guy, we get killed. That shows where our skill levels are also.
Jeffrey Harris: When did you find out you were going to be in the main event and what was your reaction?
Joseph Benavidez: It was surreal to me man. Honestly, it didn't really hit me until I went down for the press tour in Toronto where we had the press conference and we got to do a few other media/PR things. The background of the presser said UFC 152: Benavidez vs. Johnson. There was a poster. There was me and Bisping talking about me being the main event and him not being the main event. And just all the interviews and everything that I'm having to do. That's when I was kind of like, "Man. This is real." And it just got me hyped up man. At first, you look at it as pressure – being in the main event, how many sales are we going to get, how is this going to do, and everyone's going to be watching it – but then it comes to a point, especially for me, where I just look at it and gain so much confidence on it. I think of everything I've been through in life and how hard I worked to get here. And like I said, this is where everyone wants to be. This is why I worked so hard to and this is what I deserve and where I should be. And now I just got to keep working harder to make it the first of many. It just inspires me and gets me going more than anything. I feel this where I'm meant to be and why this is what I do and why I work so hard.
Jeffrey Harris: You and Johnson both have strong wrestling and good wrestling credentials. Do you think the wrestling might cancel each other out here and where do you think Johnson wants to take this fight?
Joseph Benavidez: I think you are going to see a little bit of everything. There's definitely going to be some wrestling in there. That's one thing in these flyweight fights – everybody is good at everything. We don't have the luxury of fighting not only a being just a big lug that's not going to push the pace, but we don't have the luxury of fighting a guy who's going to stand there and take our punches. We're fighting guys that are moving around, throwing combos, throwing takedowns, so you got to be on the same level to compete at the weight class. You got to be good at everything. I think you're going to see a little bit of everything. I really think it's going to be a night to remember. Every fight [at flyweight] has been so entertaining and now you have the two best guys which is going to make the fight even better. I like to take the fight ot the ground. That's where I dominate people. I've got great knockout power so I think it's going to be a great fight on the feet. I don't think either of us has lost a fight on our feet even to Dominick Cruz. He obviously beat me by sneaking in the takedowns and Demetrious as well. So that's going to be an interesting battle, but if the takedown's there I'm going to take it and beat him up on the ground. He showed a weakness there. And I think he's looking more to go in and win a decision, so I think if there's a takedown there for him to sneak in, that's a good thing to do. I'm looking for him to go out with the same plan as Dominick Cruz, but the thing is he's not as good, not as big, and not as big at it and I handled Cruz just fine so . . .
Jeffrey Harris: Any sponsors or people you want to thank or give a shout out to?
Joseph Benavidez: Yeah. Edge Shave Gel for backing me. It's just amazing to have those guys behind me. My team, Team Alpha Male. The UFC really jus tfor giving us this opportunity. It's just amazing to be in the UFC. So for me to be going for the title and to have confidence in these lighter weight classes is amazing. And of course the fans. It wouldn't be possible without them. Everyone who supports us and enjoys it and enjoys our fights, we're going to bring the heat and I'm going to fight my heart out every time for you guys.
My Twitter is @JoeJitsu. To let you know, I'm pound for pound the best Tweeter in the UFC. All who want to follow me, I'm pretty entertaining. I've won two bonuses already just for being hilarious and creative and fun on there. I try to get back to all my fans on there. Also go vote for me at Edge Shave Gel.com to be the face of Edge Shave Gel. Right now we're leading in the competition. The competition goes until September 27, so persistence is key. Weidman is trying to creep up after his big win, but I know I have the best fans out there and you can go on and vote five times a day per e-mail. And it doesn't take really any time to do it, so I hope you guys go on there. On Facebook, I've been a little more active on there lately. And that's Facebook.com/JoeJitsuMMA. And my managers at MMA Inc. and thank you guys for having me.
Benavidez is still leading in the votes for the UFC Team Edge Shave Gel contest. UFC 152 will be held September 22 in Toronto and will be broadcast live on PPV. Thank you to Joseph Benavidez for taking the time out of his schedule to speak with us.