It’s been over three years since Benito Lopez stepped foot inside the Octagon. Minor injuries and matters in his personal life have kept Lopez out of the fight action, but he’s been able to pick up a new hobby for a life outside of fighting, which was obtaining his real estate license.
“I started watching some real estate shows on Netflix, which a lot of people probably have, and that was a little bit of inspiration, on top of Al Iaquinta being a UFC fighter and having some success in the real estate market,” Lopez said. “Honestly, [it came from] just being injured and being out for a few years and realizing you can't fight and be an athlete forever.”
For the first time in his career, Lopez will fight inside the UFC APEX. It’s a unique environment to fight in after previously fighting in arenas in California and Arizona, but it’s a challenge Lopez is looking forward to. The Dana White’s Contender Series alum went 2-1 in the UFC before his hiatus, his last victory coming against Vince Morales in July 2019.
“As soon as I went on the other side of the curtain [at the APEX] I felt at home,” Lopez said. “I don't feel nerves or anything. I feel at home. I feel excited and I'm excited to make that walk Saturday night and leave my mark on here for the first time, so it'll be exciting.”
Since he started training for his fight against Mario Bautista, Lopez has had to put his real estate career to the side, but he mentioned that his team has been nothing but supportive of his fighting career.
During his time away, Lopez also became a dad to a baby girl. He’s been able to focus on being a family man and not spending so much time in the gym. He feels that his time away from the Octagon allowed him to evolve not just as a fighter, but a man, as well.
The 28-year-old has been keeping up with what’s going on in the fight world, even though he hasn’t been fighting, and he’s excited to show everything that he has gained during his time away.
“Although I haven't fought, I haven't missed a prelim on any fight card; the first fight of the night to the last, I study,” Lopez said. “I'm like a fight encyclopedia, I know most of the fights and most people's styles, and I feel like I've grown and evolved mentally, even though they haven't seen it.”
Lopez admits that the first couple weeks in fight camp were rough, since he wasn’t in an intense fight camp or training and dieting like he was used to when he was fighting constantly. He has been focused on rebuilding good habits and losing his ‘dad bod’.
Now it’s full steam ahead to Bautista, who is coming into the matchup on a two-fight win streak, defeating Jay Perrin and Brian Kelleher. Bautista has earned three of his ten wins by knockout and four by submission. On the other hand, Lopez has never been knocked out in his career and his lone loss was by submission.
“I think for my first fight back, it's good, because when I take him out, it's going to show the division I'm not anyone to sleep on, I'm still here, I'm serious and I'm the real deal,” Lopez said. “I think it's a good matchup for me because it's a real fight, my first fight back and I get to show my worth and show where I'm at.”
The path to victory for the first time in over three years is simple for the “Golden Boy”.
“If I fight like myself, I think people will see,” Lopez said. “My team knows I train every day; they see me and they feel me in the gym, so they know what I'm capable of. I just got to go show it Saturday night; nothing specifically, just go out there and get in a fight.”
UFC Fight Night: Rodriguez vs Lemos took place live from the UFC Apex in Las Vegas, Nevada on November 5, 2022. See the Final Results, Official Scorecards and Who Won Bonuses - and relive the action on UFC Fight Pass!