WEC Bantamweight No. 1 Contender Joseph Benavidez chats with The Scores Report

A year ago, few knew who Joseph Benavidez was. Even the hardcore MMA fans knew little about the 5-foot-4, 135-pound bantamweight that trains out of Ultimate Fitness in Sacramento, California.

On Aug. 9, 2009, Benavidez suffered his lone loss of his career to Dominick Cruz and since then has rattled off back-to-back wins, including a second round submission win over Miguel Torres on March 6 that put him on the map.

Now, with the MMA eye clearly on him, Benavidez looks to avenge his loss to Cruz this Wednesday at WEC 50 when he challenges Cruz for the WEC Bantamweight title from the Palms Casino Resort in Las Vegas. The event can be seen live on Versus starting at 9PM ET.

I got the chance to speak to Benavidez and ask him about his title match, having his teammate Urijah Faber drop down to his weight class, and his sponsorship with AMP.

The Scores Report: Joseph, thanks for your time. I know you have a busy schedule.

Joseph Benavidez: Not a problem.

TSR: Tell me about when you found out you were getting the title fight and a chance to face Cruz again.

JB: I kind of felt like I was going to get the fight after I beat Miguel Torres and shortly after the WEC 48 Pay-Per-View event, I found out I was getting it. It was 50-50 at one point but I knew I deserved the fight and I pleaded my case some what and the WEC made their choice to have the rematch and the feeling was just unreal. Becoming champion is the reason most people fight and I felt like I took the right steps to get this opportunity. I remember when I got the contract to sign, I had this feeling that I was going to become champion. That really means everything to me. My goal is to be the best and the hardware will be cool to have, but the recognition that you are the best in the world is really what I am after. When I win that fight, my name will be in history forever.”

TSR: Why will this fight turn out differently than the first meeting?

JB: Well, for starters the outcome will be different (laughs). The fight was really close the first time and I was a bit reckless at times and he capitalized on it with takedowns. He beat me with wrestling and wrestling is my strength. I was focused on that fight being on the feet and didn’t think he would look to wrestle. This time, I will have the mentality to be prepared for anything and I think I have improved my wrestling and improved my stand up. I feel great physical and I don’t think he is going to be able to change much from that first fight.

TSR: Who do you think has more pressure on them in this fight, you or Cruz?

JB: I think it is equal. For me, there is no way I will lose to someone two times. We are both driven and the best two 135-pounders in the world. For him, he has already won the title while this is my shot. I think if anything, there is more for me to gain and more pressure on me to achieve that.

TSR: How much does that loss stuck with you compared to getting a big win?

JB: The loss sticks around way more. After a win, you feel great and you just want to get back in the gym and get that winning feeling again. When I lost, I just knew I never wanted to feel that again and I still think about it to this day.

TSR: Your “Alpha Male” teammate, Urijah Faber, is moving down to your weight class of 135 pounds, what are your thoughts on that?

JB: I think it is a great move for Urijah. He is a natural 135-pounder, he just has fought at 145 pounds the last few years because the bigger fights were at 145 pounds. Now the 135-pound division has become very competitive and there are plenty of big fights to have. He is a great draw for the division and he will be fighting guys that are his size instead of fighting bigger guys at 145 pounds.

TSR: Has there been more of a buzz in the WEC since the Aldo vs. Faber Pay-Pre-View?

JB: The pay-per-view was great for us. The show was profitable and we have only been around for about three years now. It was definitely a success and glad we got a chance to do it. I think when people got the chance to really see us, they get hooked. The lighter weights are very exciting and the fights are a lot more technical. We have a lot of pay-per-view worthy fights to put on. Hopefully there will be more chances for pay-per-views down the road.

TSR: Who has been your toughest opponent to date in your career?

JB: I would have to say Dominick Cruz is the best guy I have fought. Miguel Torres was my biggest win and got me the most respect, but Jeff Curran was probably my toughest opponent. He is a tough guy and he is just a survivor. That was a hard fight to win.

TSR: How much have your improved since you made your WEC debut on Dec. 3, 2008?

JB: I have improved so much and matured a lot. Not just as a fighter, but as a person too. I really discovered what I have in me. I hit that un-tapped reserves that I have inside and that came through my training and my teammates. I train with world class fighters and they have improved my game so much. I have improved a lot mentally as well and right now I just know that I am one of the best in the world and I keep working to make that a reality.

TSR: How big has it been for you to get a product like AMP Energy to sponsor you?

JB: Having AMP behind me is huge. It has really been a dream come true for me. I tell myself all the time that I never though when I was a kid in New Mexico that I would have the opportunity to be sponsored or part of an ad campaign or that somebody would want to put their product’s name on my fight gear. It is really crazy, but AMP is a great fit for me and what I do and they take great care of me and I wouldn’t be able to train or be where I am without their support.

TSR: AMP recently put on a promotion called “Homedown Takedown” where they allowed fans to choose from one of 30 possible cities to host a WEC event. If you had your choice of anywhere to have a bout, where would it be?

JB: There isn’t a place in particular I would like to go, just somewhere I have never been before. I like to do and see new things, so I would think it would be pretty cool to have a fight outside of the U.S. and maybe go somewhere exotic.

TSR: Alright Joseph, is there anything else you would like to say to your fans?

JB: I just want to thank everyone for their support. The things I do are only possible with them. Thanks to all the people of Sacramento where I live and the people in my home town of Las Cruces as well as the people of San Antonio. I also want to thank my managers and teammates as well as the people with AMP and the WEC.

TSR: Thanks for your time and best of luck to you in your upcoming title fight.

JB: Thank you.

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