Two times before, Benavidez has been the challenger for mixed martial arts gold. Two times before, he fought five rounds with the champion. And two times before he lost by split decision.
First losing to Dominick Cruz at WEC 50, then dropping a UFC title bid in his first fight with Johnson have provided Benavidez with an extra motivation. He’s been close enough to tasting gold, but came just short each time.
The man who practices “Joe-Jitsu” said that on Dec. 14 he’ll look to get a chip off his shoulder.
“I have that extra motivation. That’s always a goal that’s on my list that I haven’t accomplished,” Benavidez said on a recent media conference call. “But even though [Demetrious Johnson] has accomplished [winning a title], I’m sure his goal is to defend it as well. And he’s defended it. But it means a lot to me. It’s been [my goal] to be the champion at some point.”
While he is driven by having twice fought for a title and lost, Benavidez slides that piece of his motivation into his back pocket for safe keeping. It’s not the sole element of his drive, he said, and focusing on it too much has cost him before.
Instead of thinking too much about earning a belt, Benavidez said he looks at the second fight with Johnson as “just another fight.” This helps him zero in on winning, and not allowing the pressures of title fights to weigh on him.
“I thought about that too much last time, and it’s like it is really just another fight,” he said. “What’s the difference? I’m going in there against another man, he’s my size. It’s another chance to test my skills and that’s all it really is. So, it means a lot for me to make my family and my friends and my team and everyone that supports me really proud.”
If and when he earns a title, whether it be Saturday against Johnson or at some time in the future, Benavidez will look back on it as a point of pride, he said. The moment will bring gratification to him, but it will also bring delight to whom he’s closest with. And once it’s all done, it’s back to the grind.
“I think it’s something I’m going to be able to look back at and be like, ‘Wow, that’s amazing. I was a UFC champ,'” he said. “But I think when I get it, I’m going to be really excited to make everyone proud. And then it’s kind of like, back to work.”