A few weeks ago, Joseph Benavidez and Demetrious Johnson were preparing to prop up an entire card as the UFC 152 main event. After the chaos of UFC 151 left the UFC schedule in disarray, the two flyweights were essentially demoted, moved one rung below to the co-main event of the Sept. 22 card to make room for Jon Jones. As it stands right now, that position is fairly invisible, as all the talk about UFC 152 remains centered on light-heavyweight champ Jones, his unlikely challenger Vitor Belfort and angered boss Dana White.
On a Tuesday conference call, Benavidez and Johnson weren't afterthoughts, but only fielded a handful of questions during the one-hour session.
While that may seem a bit unfair, neither flyweight tournament finalist could muster any disappointment for the change, saying the opportunity to become the division's first champion was more than enough to focus on.
"The best way to deal with it for me is keeping my eye on prize and that’s the UFC belt," said Benavidez (16-2), who knocked out Yasuhiro Urushitani in a March semifinal. "When I got into the sport and wrote down my goals, it was never to be a UFC main event or to be a on a UFC main card; it was to be the UFC champion. I still get to do that, so my eye's on that prize and that's why I’m 100 percent focused."
It was the same sentiment for Johnson (15-2-1), who memorably had to face Ian McCall twice en route to advancing to the title bout after their first fight ended in a draw due to a scoring error.
"I'm super excited. I can't wait to get in there and mix it up with Joseph," he said. "He's a great competitor, and like he said, to be able to make history and be the first-ever fighter to be crowned flyweight champion in a new weight class, I’m speechless. I agree. I believe we’re both going to deliver, and there's a reason why Dana White opened up the flyweight division and had the tournament, had the best four guys in the world basically introducing the weight class, and we’re going to deliver on Sept 22."
There is, of course, another consideration for both, the likelihood that with Jones atop the card, there will be more eyeballs on them when they square off. With all of the attention on Jones and Belfort and White, well, there just might be more witnesses than expected taking it the fights in when Benavidez and Johnson attempt to steal the show.
"I'm in this sport for a long time and I'm going to continue to fight with my whole heart and put on a show," Benavidez said. "I believe main events will come. But like I said, my eyes are on the prize, and that's all that matters. I still get to do that and now, I get to do that with even more fans watching, so the fact that Jon Jones' fans, Vitor Belfort's fans and even more fans are going to watch it, that’s going to just help the process speed along even quicker for me."
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