by Brian Lopez-Benchimol – MMAWeekly.com
No longer in the shadow of his mentor and friend, Urijah Faber, Joseph Benavidez has risen through the ranks to stake claim as the next big thing in the 135-pound division.

Set to face Dominick Cruz on Aug. 9 as the co-main event under current champ Miguel Torres at WEC 42, the supporting slot has become a comfortable trend for the New Mexico native. His fight with Cruz will mark the third time in three WEC appearances that Benavidez will be on the same card with Torres headlining. Needless to say, he has taken notice.

“I want to fight Miguel,” said Benavidez. “He’s the champ, he’s the best guy; he’s one of the best guys, pound-for-pound. He has the name right now so I’d like to be the guy to beat him.”

With no shortage of quality opponents in the WEC, the Team Alpha Male product is in the midst of a crucial point in his young, three-year career. Having already defeated the likes of Danny Martinez and perennial contender Jeff Curran in his only two fights within the organization thus far, Benavidez understands the importance of his next bout and the ramifications of another successful performance.

“I expect myself to win every fight,” he told MMAWeekly.com. “I went in there expecting to beat Curran. I’m going in there expecting to beat Cruz.

“Of course I want to go out there and look impressive that way people’s interest will peak, going in there into the next fight.

“I’m looking to go out there and win. I’ve built a little fan base and in this next one, I want to just keep building it and people are going to be excited to hopefully see me fight in the championship.”

With all signs pointing towards a title shot should he get past Cruz, Benavidez is steadfast in his approach. Exuding the kind of confidence that a young, undefeated fighter should, the 25-year-old is by no means overlooking his next challenge.

Pegged as an early favorite, he has another type of confidence going in, knowing that Faber has already done the homework in defeating Cruz, though two years ago. Benavidez knows Cruz has put his lone loss on the back burner to rack up three consecutive wins in his new home at 135, making him a formidable opponent and one that is not to be underestimated.

Though still looking ahead towards an imminent title shot, Benavidez realizes the dangers that Cruz presents and uses his opponent as a new type of motivation. The standout wrestler has had things change dramatically within the past year or so, making a name for himself in a popular promotion, moving up the ranks quick, and is finally making a comfortable living. He won’t allow a budding contender to dictate a change in pace for his new lifestyle.

“It’s almost a little motivating to know that this guy – I worked really hard to get to this point,” said Benavidez.

“I moved from New Mexico a few years ago. I basically had nothing. Now my life’s going just like I wanted it, just like I planned it. It’s kind of motivating. I came this far and my life’s perfect and basically Dominick Cruz is going to ruin that.

“[Expletive], if this guy beats me my life, my dream is going to come to a little halt. He’s trying to ruin this great life that I’ve built for myself.”

And if anyone questioned where Benavidez’s head was at, in the midst of this tangent…

“Dominick is Cruz-ing for a bruising”.

Corny, but effective.