The flyweights fought twice in UFC title fights and were responsible for building the men’s 125-pound division in the UFC as two of the original four fighters in the weight class for the promotion.
It’s been almost a decade since the birth of flyweight in the UFC and Johnson now is the only active fighter left from the first four. Benavidez announced his retirement from the sport this past week, leaving behind a 15-year career in professional fighting.
Benavidez never became UFC champion. He was unable to beat Johnson in the two UFC title fights he part took in. Despite not getting his hands on UFC gold, Johnson still tips his hat to Benavidez and says being champion is not everything.
“(He had) an amazing career,” Johnson told MMA Junkie Radio. “Me and Joseph Benavidez shared a lot of time together throughout our career – going to see Coldplay before UFC 152, where me and him competed for the first flyweight title in the UFC; me and him fighting at UFC on FOX 8 in Sacramento, (Calif.); and just sharing the octagon with him has been a pleasure of mine.
“I remember watching him fight when I used to work full time. He’s had a great career, and I always told him there’s more to fighting than being a world champion. All of the sudden when he has kids, it’s going to change his whole perspective about life. For me, to be able to take my daughter to school this morning, pick her up, come home, cook her lunch, and her sitting on my lap now – this is why I fight, to be able to provide for my family. So for him, I sent him a message on Instagram saying, ‘Congrats on an amazing career. Enjoy the next phase of your life.’ We can’t fight forever. There’s going to be a point in time where I’m going to do the same thing.”
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Even though Johnson and Benavidez were longtime rivals, being the two best flyweights for many years, Johnson said he likes him the most out of any opponent he’s ever had. After all, the two were responsible for helping build an entire weight class – something that in many ways was a team effort and had them share a lot of experiences.
“Me and Joseph spent a lot of time together,” Johnson said. “I would say out of all my opponents, he’s the one I probably enjoyed spending the time with the most. I remember doing a tour in Australia and going to Brisbane and just traveling all over Australia and going to the zoo together. We did a lot of sh*t together that I wouldn’t have done with any other opponent. But me and him were trying to build a division that started in 2012.
“I wish Joseph and Megan (Olivi) nothing but the best. I’m sure they’re going to have beautiful babies and the next phase of their lives is going to be amazing. They’re both positive people. They’ve never been negative, so nothing but the best. What a successful career. Even though he never became a champion, still an amazing career. People are going to look back at his fights and see how good he was, how he fought in both divisions. I mean – legend.”
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