A perennial contender throughout his entire career, Joseph Benavidez knew it was time to walk away when he thought a UFC title was no longer in reach.
A multiple-time title challenger, Benavidez (28-8 MMA, 19-7 UFC) came close to wrapping UFC gold around his waist on numerous occasions but fell short each time. However, the flyweight pioneer was able to continuously compete at the highest level by eliminating one top contender after another.
But after back-to-back title fight losses to Deiveson Figueiredo, Benavidez wanted to test himself against the division’s elite one more time to see where he stood. He dropped a unanimous decision to Askar Askarov at UFC 259 in March, and the decision to hang up his gloves came shortly after – even though the public learned about it just a week ago.
“I kind of knew I wasn’t going to fight again after my last fight,” Benavidez told MMA Junkie Radio. “Even going into my last fight, I was like, ‘I’m not going to go for the title again – that’s kind of why I do this.’ Some people fight to get into the top 10 their whole career, and when they do … I could fight in the top 10 for years to come, but my last title shot was my last one.
“That’s kind of what I’ve been doing, and after the last fight, I was like, ‘I’m going to at least go out on top. If it’s not for the title, I want to fight the next highest-ranked guy in Askar.’ Nothing goes as planned in this sport or in life, and I didn’t come out on top in that one. But even before that, I just kind of knew that might be my last fight. So it took a while for me to come around to it.”
Prior to his first loss to Figueiredo, Benavidez had never endured two straight setbacks throughout his entire career. But after the 37-year-old dropped his third straight bout to Askarov, he didn’t want to make any rash decisions on the spot and assess his decision carefully before making it.
“Obviously I don’t want to just get out of the fight and say, ‘Hey, I’m done fighting,’ because you never really know,” Benavidez said. “Maybe a month or two, stick around, you start training and having fun, and you’re like, ‘All. right, I can still do this for a job because it’s fun.’ But I never wanted to do it as a job, so that was kind of my issue when it came down to it.
“I felt like it’s not that fun. I don’t miss training, to tell you the truth, and I would literally be doing it for a job – like going in to get money. This isn’t necessarily something you play around with.”
Joseph Benavidez def. Dustin Ortiz at UFC on ESPN+ 1: Best photos
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