BELO HORIZONTE, Brazil -- Joseph Benavidez wants his second chance for the UFC gold, and he's proving he deserves the shot.
Benavidez traveled to Brazil to meet Jussier Formiga, the best flyweight in the world back when the UFC didn't have that division, and needed only three minutes to end the fight with a knee to the belly at UFC Fight Night 28. After a devastating performance, Benavidez believes he deserves another shot at the champion Demetrious Johnson.
"I'm always ready," Benavidez told MMAFighting.com following his win. "I'm the best guy in the division. I gave him a great fight, but that's not my decision. I think I've proved I can beat the best guys but I'm just improving every day as a fighter. At the end of the day, it's not my decision. Whatever the UFC decides, I'll be ready for it.
"I always prepare myself to go to war for 15 minutes. I'm fighting the toughest guys in the world so I'm prepared to have a 15-minute battle. I worked too hard to finish fights and the fight played out as I (expected). My power, my speed were on point. I've learned great techniques, I feel I've improved as a fighter. every day so that's just the result. Let it flow."
Benavidez is 3-0 since dropping a decision to Johnson last September, and he believes the loss to the current champion showed him he needed to just relax and have fun inside the Octagon.
"For me, I realized that it's not life or death," he said. "I'm just having fun fighting. I've always had fun fighting, but for some reason at the title fight I treated it like it was life or death. It wasn't even fun for me. I was almost mad, and that's just not me, not the way I perform. Obviously, I've gained a lot of hunger after that loss and it made me a better fighter."
A different mentality made the Team Alpha Male flyweight evolve as a fighter, but having Duane Ludwig as a coach also helped.
"That was my third knockout in the UFC," said Benavidez. "A lot has to do with it that they made the new weight class. At 135, the guys were a little bigger and could take a punch. I've rocked guys at 135, but they wouldn't go down. At 125, the guys are smaller, and I'm a real power puncher in the division. On top of that, I have amazing coaches like Duane Ludwig, and everybody can see the improvement of our team since he got."
Getting the win was important for Benavidez, but the rivalry between Team Alpha Male and Nova Uniao also fueled him coming to this fight after Urijah Faber's losses to Jose Aldo and Renan Barao, and Chad Mendes' knockout defeat to Aldo.
"I was backstage and it wasn't the biggest thing, it was me vs. Formiga, but a lot of people talked about how great the two camps are," he said. "They got three wins over us, so it's always nice to go there and get them. But I like the guys, I like watching the whole team fight. I think their coach, Andre Pederneiras, is great, but it was great to get a win over them."