If UFC Fight Island 2 was a Hollywood movie, Joseph Benavidez would’ve gotten his hand raised. He was 0-3 in UFC title fights and rematching Deiveson Figueiredo who had knocked him out just months earlier. The two were fighting again for the vacant flyweight title, where Benavidez knew this was his final title shot.
Entering the fight, the majority of UFC fighters were rooting for Benavidez. Yet, the 35-year-old came up short once again losing by submission. He was dropped three times and fended off countless submission attempts. But, finally, the Brazilian locked in a choke and Benavidez refused to tap and went out cold.
Following the event, Benavidez spoke to the media where he was heartbroken and fighting back tears knowing he will go down as one of the best fighters to never win a UFC title.
“My goal in this sport is to be the best, be the champion,” Benavidez said after the fight. “I knew last fight was my last title attempt. It wasn’t ‘cause of circumstances but this one certainly was. I wasn’t fighting in this sport from the beginning 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 for 11 years at two weight classes. It’s been a crazy journey. It’s been awesome.
“I’m not going out like that. Nothing’s guaranteed in this sport for sure. But I’m not going to get another title shot and I don’t want to go out on that. I just want to go out with another fight,” he continued. “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.”
Although Joseph Benavidez won’t have a UFC belt at home, he still goes down as one of the best fighters ever. And, regardless of whether or not he won a title when he decides to call it a career, he is a surefire Hall of Famer.
Look down Benavidez’s record and you will be amazed. He was the last person to beat Henry Cejudo before he went on a legendary run, and he’s beaten the who’s who of the flyweight and bantamweight divisions. In WEC, his only two losses were to Dominick Cruz, including one being by split for the belt. He also had wins over the likes of Eddie Wineland, Miguel Torres, and Rani Yahya in the promotion.
When Benavidez became a member of the UFC following WEC being bought, he dropped down to his natural weight class of flyweight. There, he went to the finals of the flyweight tournament where he suffered a split decision loss to Demetrious Johnson. Just like WEC, he was one round on one judge’s scorecard away from becoming the champ.
Even though he lost his chance at UFC gold, Benavidez then went on a run of his own beating top contenders like Ian McCall and Jussier Formiga before he was knocked out by “Mighty Mouse,” who some consider the greatest fighter of all-time. After going 0-2 in UFC title fights, Benavidez then went 9-1, overcoming knee surgery, and beat top-ranked opponents in Cejudo, Tim Elliott, Alex Perez, John Moraga, and Ali Bagautinov.
Then, when Johnson finally got dethroned by Cejudo, someone who Benavidez beat, he never got the shot at the belt. Instead, “Triple C” went for superfights and then moved up to bantamweight. Once that happened, the veteran met Figueiredo for the title who appears to be a monster.
Ultimately, it is no doubt disappointing for Joseph Benavidez who will never become a UFC champion, but he was the second-best fighter in his weight class for 10 plus years and it is hard to deny that. Belts or not, when he decides to hang up the gloves for good, Benavidez will be a first-ballot Hall of Famer and goes down as one of the best flyweights of all-time.