by Damon Martin – MMAWeekly.com
When Joseph Benavidez got the call from the WEC that he would be fighting Dominick Cruz for the bantamweight title, the Team Alpha Male fighter immediately had a vision.
As he heard the offer for the championship bout, Benavidez saw the title fight unveil itself in his mind’s eye, as he defeated the only fighter to ever hand him a loss in his pro MMA career, while at the same time capturing a title he’s coveted since he started fighting.
From that moment on, Benavidez has been focused on achieving the dream that he had that day, and it’s that steady course that puts the California fighter on a collision course with fate, as he puts it, for something he’s worked his whole career to achieve.
“My first goal, short term, was to win the world title when I got in the sport. That’s what I want to do; you want to be the best. After my loss, I got another goal to avenge my only loss and beat Dominick Cruz, cause I feel like I can, and the way it’s happened I couldn’t write it any better,” Benavidez said during a recent appearance on MMAWeekly Radio.
“I think it is fate the way everything happened: me getting to go get two more fights, and now getting to avenge my only loss for the title. I feel like it’s a freaking movie.”
If there’s a script for the upcoming battle between Benavidez and Cruz, the story began in August 2009 when the two 135-pound contenders first met. It was the fight that earned Cruz his shot at the bantamweight title, as he got the best of Benavidez over the 15-minute bout, and then went on to defeat Brian Bowles to win the belt.
Going back over the fight in his head, Benavidez knows that even though he lost there’s still a lot he can take away from that night. He believes that can be a major asset when he gets his chance to face Cruz again, just over a year later.
“The more I watch it I was really winning the stand-up exchanges, that’s why he wanted to take me down,” said Benavidez. “He usually beats everyone with stand-up, and I’d say I was winning, especially in the first and the third, which would give me the fight, but he got the takedowns and that was something I wasn’t worried about at the time.”
Making the necessary adjustments to his game, Benavidez went on to knock out Rani Yahya, and then submit former WEC champion Miguel Torres. Now he get’s the rematch he’s been waiting for, and he doesn’t think Cruz wanted anything to do with part two of this saga.
“Fighting him again gives me a huge advantage I think. One, I’ve already fought him. In this sport you don’t want to fight someone that you already beat cause you feel you have nothing to prove, and it’s a hard fight, especially a tough fight like that,” Benavidez said. “I don’t want to fight any of these guys I already beat, cause I feel like I already beat them.
“Dominick’s a driven guy, hard worker and stuff, but it’s got to be hard to get up for a fighter you already beat. You’re almost trying to hold onto something.”
Cruz will be trying to hold onto his belt and his current winning streak, but Benavidez says he’s got the perfect cocktail to spoil the champion’s chance at defending his title for the first time.
“I feel 100 percent confident. It’s the way I’ve felt for my last few fights. Confidence is huge in our sport, just the belief in yourself and your preparation, and when I’m like that, prepared, and I just had a great camp, I feel unstoppable,” said Benavidez.
“I’ll get that title, and hopefully get to defend it for a long time too.”