Not many people have that kind of perspective, especially when they make their living in the public eye. Already, the lights shine brighter on wins and losses, and to take those setbacks and look at them in the bigger picture is admirable. I wonder if Benavidez would have felt the same way after losing a pair of title fights to Demetrious Johnson in 2012 and 2013.
“Experience can only happen by experience,” he laughs. “That’s the funny thing about this sport, in general, is that the only way to know this is to suffer this or go through this.”
He went through it, for sure, engaging in an instant classic with Johnson in the UFC’s first flyweight title fight at UFC 152 in Toronto. After five rounds, Johnson left with a split decision win and the belt, but a crushed Benavidez vowed to return and get his redemption. It didn’t happen, Johnson scoring a first-round knockout in their rematch a little over a year later.
MORE UFC 259: How To Order | Inside The Octagon | Aljamain Sterling’s Top Finishes | Journey To Champion – Petr Yan | Kennedy Nzechukwu | Amanda Nunes: “And Still… Forever” | Megan Anderson In Position To Make History At UFC 259 | Jan Blachowicz Has Earned The Big Fight | Drew Dober’s Secret
In the ensuing years, Benavidez was the best flyweight in the world without a belt around his waist, and it took him going 9-1 in his next ten fights to get a shot at the vacant 125-pound crown against Figueiredo. The first fight last February saw the Brazilian emerge with the win but not the title after he missed weight, but in the rematch, Figueiredo left no doubt. Not surprisingly, Benavidez took the defeats hard like any competitive athlete would, but as he looks back at it now, it wasn’t nearly as bad as when he lost to Johnson the first time.
“The first one with ‘Mighty Mouse,’ I still think it was a little more devastating than this last loss that I went through,” said Benavidez. “Even though that fight was a split decision, and it was a close fight, and this one I had no choice and it was my absolute last shot at it, the other one still hurt more. And I never really thought about it like this, but maybe it was because I just wasn’t as well adjusted having not gone through as much. I put everything into that and there was nothing else I really had in life. Me beating the best is going to be me. That’s why people loved me. For this one, it’s like, s**t, I lost professionally at my job, but personally, did it affect me? Did it make my wife not think I’m the best? No. But back then, I didn’t have that stuff to fall back on, or it wasn’t as important to me, either. What was important to me was, I’m the best, it’s the goal, it’s the fans, it’s to have everyone think I’m the best. That’s where I felt my self-worth would come from. So even though that was a close fight and people thought I won, and it was a long time ago, for some reason, that was a more devastating time because that was all I had.”