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WEC 40: Joseph Benavidez Hopes He's 1 Fight Away From a Title Shot

As Joseph Benavidez prepares to fight Jeff Curran Sunday night in the co-main event at WEC 40, he's already given some thought to what a victory would mean.

Benavidez told me Thursday that he views his fight with Curran as one that could establish the winner as the No. 1 contender for the bantamweight title. Bantamweight champion Miguel Torres will defend his title against Takeya Mizugaki in the main event.

Benavidez also talked about the possibility of moving down to 125 pounds, about fighting in Japan and about his friendship with Urijah Faber. The interview is below.

Michael David Smith: How do you view the state of the 135-pound weight class right now, and where do you think you fit if you beat Jeff Curran?
Joseph Benavidez: The 135-pound class has a lot of talent, a lot of tough guys, and a lot of really good fighters that most people don't know about. I think Jeff and I are two of the best guys out there. I think most people are expecting the winner of this fight to get a title shot, but there are a lot of good guys in this weight class.

You're 5-foot-4 and you don't have any trouble making weight at 135 pounds. Now that World Extreme Cagefighting is adding a 125-pound flyweight class, could you see yourself fighting there?
I know the 125-pound class is a possibility, but if I can compete at 135 there's no reason to cut that weight. But if I had to it wouldn't be a problem because I walk around at 140. I don't like cutting weight, I'd prefer not to, but if I had to cut down to 125 pounds it wouldn't be a problem.

You made your WEC debut in December after fighting for Dream in Japan in July. What was that experience like?
I loved it. Life is about experiences and the experience of fighting in Japan was great. It didn't work out for me to stay in Dream, so WEC is the place for me now, but I'm glad that's an experience I had.

You were originally slated to fight Kid Yamamoto, who's maybe the biggest MMA star in all of Japan. How disappointed were you when he pulled out of that fight at the last minute with a knee injury?
I was pretty disappointed, but they found a replacement opponent for me, and all I really wanted to do was fight. Obviously, I would have loved to shock the world by beating Kid Yamamoto, who's one of the best in the world, but I just wanted to fight.

Kid Yamamoto has been listed in the past as one of the best fighters in the world. Do you think he is?
I definitely think he was, but the thing is he hasn't really been fighting. When people were considering him the best in the world he was fighting bigger guys, 155-pound guys, and doing very well. But he hasn't fought in over a year and other people are getting better.

Who do you think is the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world?
I'd say Fedor Emelianenko, Georges St Pierre, Anderson Silva, Miguel Torres and Urijah Faber.

I know you train a lot with Urijah. What is your relationship with him like?
Urijah and I are great friends. I've always gotten along with him. We have similar personalities. We're training partners -- a lot of people say he's my trainer but we're really just training partners. We keep each other accountable in training, and I go to him for advice about fighting and life in general.

Is Urijah chomping at the bit for his rematch with Mike Brown on June 7?
He's definitely ready. That guy is always training so he's ready to fight all the time. But to get to fight someone who beat him in Mike Brown, he's definitely pumped up for that and training really hard.

Is Urijah coming to Chicago for your fight with Curran?
Yeah, he's coming to town Friday and he'll be in my corner.

As you prepare to fight Curran, are you preparing specifically for him as an opponent, or do you prepare for all opponents the same way?
For me and our team, it's mostly just about training to fight and getting better in everything. If you train to get better at everything, it doesn't matter how good your opponents are. Urijah and I and the guys we train with are offensive fighters, and we always work on our offense. My game plan involves looking at some things my opponents are good at, but it's mostly about just getting better at everything.