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Monday, 09/17/2012, 09:34 am

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BJPenn.Com Exclusive: Joseph Benavidez Interview Part One

Joseph Benavidez is nothing if not persistent. The story of how he drove around looking for Urijah Faber’s gym while on vacation in California is well documented. Thankfully for him as well as the fans his persistence paid off and the two hooked up and have forged a strong bond and working relationship. Faber and Benavidez are the core of Team Alpha Male; a gym comprised of lower weight class fighters.

He is also very driven, ask anyone and they will tell you that he is a tireless worker who spends long hours in the gym with the sole focus of becoming the best mixed martial artist he can be. Judging by his performances in the WEC & the UFC his hard work has paid off. He is considered the top flyweight fighter in the world and in many people’s minds the second best bantamweight right behind UFC champion Dominick Cruz.

Benavidez has had a long time to prepare for his bout with Demetrious Johnson this Saturday night at UFC 152. After defeating Yasuhiro Urushitani back in March he was forced to the sidelines while Johnson and Ian McCall had to fight for a second time because of a judging mishap in their first bout. Being the true professional that he is, Benavidez has used this time to his advantage and is ready to become the first UFC Flyweight Champion.

“I had a long layoff since my fight with Urushitani due to the first Johnson-McCall fight being called a draw,” Benavidez told BJPenn.Com. “I’ve used this time to train and get better. I’m not going to lie, when I first heard that I had to wait for a shot at the title while they fought again I was a little frustrated.”

“Stuff like that happens in this sport and you have to view it in a positive light. I looked at it as an opportunity to get better. I’ve been able to concentrate on myself and work with some different coaches and training partners. I feel like I’ve made some huge improvements and I’m going to be better on September 22nd than if we would’ve fought in June or July.”

Training at Alpha Male and sparring with fighters his own size on a daily basis has certainly made Benavidez a better fighter, but even the best fighters know there are times when you need a little diversity.

“I started working with Jimmy Gifford, who is a boxing coach, for about a year now,” said Benavidez. “We only had the one fight together because of the layoff, but it’s been good for me. Vegas has become like a second home to me and I’m also working with kickboxing coach Shawn Yarborough as much as I can. There’s so much out there to learn and I keep trying to improve. I also go to Robert Drysdale’s gym and work on my grappling while I’m there.

“Being on TUF as part of Team Faber gave me an opportunity to work with eight fresh bodies who I never trained with. It was a great experience, I got to help them and they helped me too. As far as I’m concerned there aren’t any better training partners than the ones I have at Team Alpha Male, but working with different partners has helped me immensely.”

Benavidez was an interested observer for both of the Johnson-McCall match-ups for obvious reasons. It would have been amazing had the two fought a sudden death fourth round. Benavidez feels that the sport lost out on a terrific opportunity to help introduce the flyweights because of the scoring mishap. He believes fans would’ve loved to have seen a fourth round, but things happen for a reason and at the end of the day he is right where he wants to be.

“I think a draw was definitely justified,” Benavidez stated. “When I was warming up in the back I thought to myself that the fight could be a draw. I wish they would’ve gotten it right the first time because I would already have the belt by now. I think it was such a good fight and it would’ve been a great treat for the fans had it gone to a fourth round. It would’ve been a great way to introduce the weight class and show what we are capable of. I look at it as a missed opportunity for the fans and the sport.”

Urushitani had fought his entire career in Japan before he faced Benavidez in Australia. There weren’t too many fans familiar with his style and they weren’t sure what to expect when he entered the Octagon for the first time. It didn’t make a difference for Benavidez as he has the same game plan going into each and every fight.

“You always prepare for a three round fight,” admitted Benavidez. “The way I approach training is to make sure I am ready for the hardest 15 minutes of my life. I know if I do that I’ll be ready to go through hell. If you look at my style I am always going for the finish, take the Wagnney Fabiano fight for instance. He’s a BJJ blackbelt and I jumped to my back three times and submitted him. I will always go for the finish. I knew Urushitani had never been knocked out and that was a goal of mine and I’m glad I did it.”

Part two of this interview will be posted later this week.

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