Coming off four straight wins, three consecutive finishes and a trio of performance bonuses, Beneil Dariush felt like there was no way he wouldn’t draw a ranked opponent next.
Considering he previously occupied a slot in those same rankings after he started his UFC career with a 6-1 record including wins over Jim Miller, Diego Ferreira and Anthony Rocco Martin, he was convinced it was time to begin that climb up the top 15 again.
After knocking out Drakkar Klose in his most recent performance, Dariush reached out to the UFC’s matchmaker in hopes that a ranked opponent was next.
“I texted Sean [Shelby] and I said look at my resume. It’s time for a top 10 guy,” Dariush revealed when speaking to MMA Fighting.
Sadly, Dariush says the answer he received from Shelby wasn’t exactly what he wanted, especially for the timeline he wanted to compete this summer.
“Right away he called me back, we sat down and we started talking,” Dariush explained. “I said ‘why can’t I fight this guy?’ and he said ‘he’s scheduled for this guy.’ I said ‘why can’t I fight this guy’ … ‘oh he’s not fighting right now.’ I went through the whole list and basically nobody was available for me to fight in July or August.
“The first thing he mentioned was Scott Holtzman was available. Sean said he even asked about fighting me so he said that’s an option if you’re interested.”
With a 5-1 record in his past six appearances, Holtzman is a tough, gritty veteran but he doesn’t have a number next to his name representing those lightweight rankings.
That doesn’t make Holtzman any less dangerous as an opponent, which is why Dariush had to weigh his options before ultimately opting to accept the challenge.
“Absolutely, he has more to gain and I have more to lose,” Dariush said. “Knowing that, I think it puts more pressure on me but pressure makes diamonds.
“I think Sean told me I’d have to wait until the end of the year to get a top 10, top 15 fight. I thought to myself, I really don’t want to wait. I can fight now and fight again at the end of the year. I understand picking fights is important but I also enjoy fighting. I want to be out there. I said OK, I’ll take the Scott Holtzman fight.
Throughout his career, Dariush has always let his fighting do the talking for him so he’s never been one to engage in verbal banter with his opponents. That wasn’t the case with his last opponent, however, after Dariush heard a few interviews where Klose took some shots at him.
Dariush then settled that beef with a devastating second round knockout.
When discussing his upcoming fight against Holtzman on Aug. 8, Dariush feels completely different, especially after a few interactions with the Tennessee native at various UFC cards in the past.
“I’ve had one or two interactions with Scott Holtzman and I’ve watched his fights and I thought to myself, great fight, great competition and a great guy,” Dariush said. “The few interactions I had with him, he’s such a great guy. Why not go out there and put on a show.”
As much as he might respect Holtzman as a competitor and appreciate his demeanor on a personal level, Dariush still wants to use this fight as an example to serve up to the rest of the lightweight division.
He would love to say a win on Saturday night would guarantee him a ranked opponent but Dariush understands that’s not how matchmaking works in the UFC. So he’s hoping an impressive win over Holtzman to build his win streak to five in a row will eventually put him into a position where the best lightweights in the world can no longer avoid him.
“I don’t how many times it takes to remind everybody,” Dariush said. “I don’t care if you’re a young lion, you’re an old lion, you’re a veteran, you’re in the middle of the pack — I’m top dog. I’m the guy. I don’t need to be top 15. I don’t need to be top five. I need to be champion. That’s how good I am and you guys challenging me is just a mistake. You should go look for someone else.
“In the first year and a half I was with the UFC I fought seven times, I was 6-1 and I was ranked No. 7. When you go on a tear like that and you stay consistent, eventually the fights that you want just materialize. Because people can’t get away from you. You’re everywhere. That’s kind of what I’m trying to do.”