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Joseph Benavidez leaves management company in wake of Reebok deal

Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

LAS VEGAS -- Joseph Benavidez is heading into his important flyweight contender fight at UFC 187 without a manager. And he thinks other UFC fighters might start following suit.

Benavidez left his management company, MMA Inc., in the wake of the UFC's uniform deal with Reebok, because it wasn't "benefiting" him anymore, he said at UFC 187 media day Thursday at MGM Grand.

With no sponsors other than Reebok allowed on fighters' gear in the Octagon, during fight week or at any other UFC-related event, Benavidez said it could be a trend that fighters begin parting ways with managers who are tasked with helping them get sponsorship deals.

"I felt like I could do it myself, and at this point in my career, save some money," Benavidez said. "I think managers are definitely gonna have to change their business model a little bit. For one, they're gonna have to step up outside [the cage]. It's not going to be as easy as, 'Hey, be on the banner and pay us money,' because that's easy to do."

Benavidez, who meets John Moraga at UFC 187 on Saturday here, is a fan of the Reebok deal and actually said he would make more from it than he currently does with sponsors. He was surprised when he saw other fighters coming out saying they made significantly more in sponsorship money than he has been.

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"Man, who the hell are your managers?" Benavidez said. "That's incredible. Because I'm on the 15-grand pay scale for one or two more fights [with Reebok]. I don't remember making 15-grand in a fight since my first title fight with Demetrious [Johnson]. It was well-publicized, the first flyweight fight, and I made some good money. Other than that, I never made 15-grand in a fight in sponsors."

Benavidez had been with MMA Inc. for seven years. Most of the fighters who train at Team Alpha Male are represented by Mike Roberts and Jeff Meyer of MMA Inc., which is based out of Sacramento. UFC featherweight champion T.J. Dillashaw has also parted ways with the company, Roberts confirmed with MMAFighting.com.

MMA Inc. represents the likes of Anthony Pettis, Chael Sonnen, Paige VanZant and Urijah Faber. Roberts said he was "disappointed" by Benavidez's departure.

"I regret that Joseph feels that way," Roberts said. "We were proud to be part of his career over the last seven years, including multiple title fights. We wish him nothing but success in his career."

Benavidez said he'll be self-managed for the time being, but will eventually look for guidance. He took this fight without a manager, he said, just to see how it went. Overall, Benavidez thinks the Reebok sponsorship is going to change the game -- both managers and sponsors will have to evolve.

"Now you have to be like, 'Hey, we want an actual endorsement. Like, year long,'" Benavidez said. "Because you can't be in the cage. We put you to work and you put us to work. Hopefully that opens up more endorsements. Obviously we're in the beginning level, but just like any sport if you're sponsored by Vitamin Water you're not rocking a Vitamin Water on your Cleveland Cavaliers jersey, but outside you're doing it.

"It's gonna put managers to work. They're gonna have to put that much more effort in actually attacking sponsors if they want to keep a job in this industry."

In the past, Benavidez said he turned down sponsorships, because he didn't know what the product was and didn't believe in it. He wasn't willing to tweet out his endorsement just because he was getting paid for it. He wanted a more meaningful relationship. Benavidez is hoping this new age will produce that kind of thing more regularly.

"I hate seeing sponsors that are just taking the easy way out for status," Benavidez said. "Like, 'Hey, I'm gonna give you $500 and you're gonna put our name on your banner.' At the end of the day, they're not really doing anything to really build the sport."

While Faber, Chad Mendes and other Team Alpha Male stalwarts are still with MMA Inc., Benavidez said it won't change anything with regards to the relationship with the gym.

"Those are totally different entities," Benavidez said. "One is team, sport and family. The other one is more business. It might make sense to everyone else, but it wasn't benefiting me anymore."

Benavidez, 30, said he is thankful for what MMA Inc. did for him over the years, but just believes that it doesn't make sense financially for him to stay with them.

"For me, nothing had happened in a while, and I hear about people maybe not as popular as me, maybe not as highly ranked or around as long as me getting more stuff than me," Benavidez said. "You just kind of want to see what else is out there, so it's been good."

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