“All I can really do is go from fight to fight trying to demolish the guy in front of me, trying to make a statement with each fight until they give me another title shot." - Joseph Benavidez
Joseph Rolando Benavidez has earned himself a litany of names over the years. “President Jobama”, “Jokozuna”, “The Beefcake” and, on March 19th, Bruce Buffer introduced Benavidez to the UFC faithful as “Joe B Wan Kenobi” as he made his Octagon debut against the rough and ready Ian Loveland. At the end of the fight, Benavidez maintained two other names that have become synonymous with this bantamweight: “winner” and “#2 ranked in the world”.
In Newark, New Jersey at UFC 128, the WEC veteran successfully made his highly anticipated inter-company transition with a unanimous decision over Loveland.
“That fight will always be special to me for being my first UFC fight ever,” says Benavidez, who distinguished himself as one of the best and brightest during his seven fights in the WEC before making the jump to work on his new legacy. “It was honestly awesome just to get to fight in the UFC. It's been a dream of mine. I'm happy I came away with the win.”
Although, he ended the fight with his hand raised, Benavidez, now 14-2, did receive his fair share of adversity from his opponent, “The Barn Owl”.
“He was really a lot tougher than I thought he was and I think he is going to make some noise in the future and get some good wins,” admits Benavidez, who previously had only two decision victories amongst his staggering 11 finishes. “I think my cardio and just my will to win were big factors in the fight. In the first round it was tough. In the second and third round I ground him out and kept the pace up on him.”
Regardless of the how, Benavidez proved yet again he is a nearly unstoppable bantamweight force. At 28 years old, “Jonan the Barbarian” has not only defeated, but finished a who’s who list of 135ers like the pair of ultra impressive guillotine chokes that took care of Wagnney Fabiano and Miguel Torres or the TKO over Rani Yahya. It’s not just that Benavidez is a winner, it is his relentlessness in the cage that typifies the best of this division and that will create more “Jomosapians” with each fight of his in the UFC.
“For anyone that didn't know me from the WEC, you can watch those fights and know that I go out there and go 100mph at all times. At all times I'm trying to rip my opponent's head off. At all times I'm trying to never give my opponent a chance to breathe. I think you also saw that in the first fight in the UFC. People can see that not only in me, but in the weight class as a whole. These guys are fast, they never stop, they do things technically on the ground that you don't see heavyweights and 205ers do. I think the fans saw a guy who is never going to stop and never give up, and who is going to go 100% until I finish the guy. I think I have so many finishes because I'm always going for the kill. I take risks like in the Wagnney Fabiano fight. I jumped to a guillotine three times on that Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt and he's awesome on top. That's how I do it. I'm a risk taker and I always go for the finish.”
Seemingly, the only man that has solved the riddle of “Quadzilla” is the current UFC bantamweight champion, Dominick Cruz. Before the belt came into the picture, the two fought a three round decision in August of 2009 at WEC 42, which was awarded “Fight of the Night”. A year later at WEC 50, Cruz made his first title defense against Benavidez, scoring a five round split decision win. These two were simply born to fight each other in neck-and-neck, to the final bell, absolute wars for the ages, which truly demonstrate what great talents they both are.
“It was an honor to fight him in both decisions. I think he's a great champion and I don't think he gets enough respect in the pound-for-pound rankings. He's beaten some awesome guys and he has a unique style that I think is cutting edge. No one fights like Dominick Cruz. I had fun in those fights and I think we gained a lot of respect for each other in both of them. Of course, it would be fun to fight him again. Both of those fights are good fights that I can look back on and be proud of.”
With all that said, “The Dapper Strapper” is in a tough position, being 0-2 against the current champ, but undefeated against everyone else.
“No matter how good I am and no matter how badly I beat someone, I can still be the second ranked guy in the world, like I am in most people's rankings, and not get a title shot,” explains Benavidez, who is caught in a problem some other greats like Rich Franklin have found themselves in. But Benavidez does know the solution: keep winning.
“All I can really do is go from fight to fight trying to demolish the guy in front of me, trying to make a statement with each fight until they give me another title shot. I'm still young in this sport and I have a lot more time left in it. It's all about putting on exciting fights and putting on a show and giving the fans what they want and I'm going to do that each and every time until I get to the title. If no one beats me up then there is no way I can't get another title shot.”
Thankfully, the UFC has a near endless string of top fighters at 135 pounds for “Rocky Baljoa” to put on entertaining fights with, including, and especially, Eddie Wineland. On August 14th at UFC Live, the former WEC bantamweight champion will square off with Benavidez, making this Wineland’s second Team Alpha Male opponent in just as many UFC fights. Wineland lost a unanimous decision to Urijah Faber in the co-main event at UFC 128. Prior to that, Wineland was riding high on four fight win streak dating back to 2009.
“I've always thought that Eddie was a tough guy and I've been watching him fight for awhile. He has awesome hands. He uses that technique of ‘sprawl and brawl’. He wants to beat you up on the feet and he uses his strength and athleticism to stop the takedowns. That's the kind of fighter he is; his best aspect is his boxing and standup. I look at the matchup and see it's an exciting fight. Even though he is coming off a loss, he fought a really good fight against a really good fighter in Faber. I realized that’s what they're doing with me - I'm an exciting fighter and they want to put me against an exciting fighter.”
As for the training for this fight, it certainly can’t hurt that while Benavidez was preparing for Loveland he was also helping Faber prepare for Wineland.
“It definitely helps that Faber already went through the camp and not only saw what worked on him from the video, but he felt what worked on him in the heat of battle in the cage,” explains Benavidez, pointing out that having real hands-on intel on Wineland is a positive, but the majority of his confidence in the fight comes from his own abilities. “I think I can beat him in his best aspect if it came down to it. If he could pick where the fight was going to be, I could beat him there. But he doesn't get to pick where the fight goes and I'm better than him everywhere else that the fight will go.”
This Sunday, the bantamweight with a thousand nicknames will return to the Octagon looking to improve his stellar record and defeat a former champion in Wineland. Before the fight begins, he may be called “The Juice Box”, “El Pollo Joco” or “Jobocop”, which is all fun and games to Benavidez as long as at the end of the fight he’s called “the winner”.