Few people have this kind of perspective, especially when making a living in the public eye. Already the lights are shining brighter on wins and losses, and taking those setbacks and looking at them in the big picture is admirable. I wonder if Benavidez would have felt the same after losing two title fights to Demetrious Johnson in 2012 and 2013.
“Experience can only happen through experience,” he laughs. “It’s the funny thing about this sport, in general, is that the only way to find out is to be in pain or experience it.
He went through it, that’s for sure, engaging in an instant classic with Johnson in the first UFC flyweight title fight at UFC 152 in Toronto. After five rounds, Johnson walked away with a split decision victory and the belt, but a crushed Benavidez vowed to come back and get his redemption. That didn’t happen, with Johnson scoring a first round knockout in their rematch just over a year later.
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In the years that followed, Benavidez was the best flyweight in the world without a belt around his waist, and it took him a 9-1 in his next ten fights to secure a shot at the vacant 125-pound crown against Figueiredo. The first fight last February saw the Brazilian emerge with the victory but not the title after missing some weight, but in the rematch Figueiredo left no doubt. Unsurprisingly, Benavidez took losses like any competitive athlete, but as he’s looking at it now, it wasn’t as bad as when he lost to Johnson the first time around.
“The first one with ‘Mighty Mouse’, I still think it was a little more devastating than this last loss I suffered,” said Benavidez. “Even though this fight was a split decision, and it was a close fight, and this one I had no choice and it was my absolute last hit, the other hurt even more. And I never really thought about it like that, but maybe it was because I wasn’t so well adjusted, not having been through so much. I put it all in there and really had nothing else in life. Me who beats the best, it will be me. That’s why people loved me. For this one it’s like, damn it, I lost professionally at my job, but personally, did it affect me? Doesn’t my wife think I’m the best? No. But back then, I didn’t have that thing to fall back on, or it wasn’t as important to me either. What was important to me is that I’m the best, that’s the goal, it’s the fans, is that everyone thinks I’m the best. This is where I felt my self-esteem would come from. So even though it was a close fight and people thought I won, and that was a long time ago, for some reason it was a more devastating time because that was all that I had.