While he was still ranked as one of the top flyweights in the world, Benavidez knew his chance to become champion had already passed after falling in back-to-back title fights to Deiveson Figueiredo.
Add to that, the four-time UFC title challenger really didn’t have a desire to face opponents who he either previously coached during a stint on The Ultimate Fighter nor the next generation of fighters who looked up to him while trying to make their own mark in the sport.
So Benavidez decided that it was time to call it a career.
“Before my fight with Askar, I actually wanted that to be my last fight,” Benavidez explained during an appearance on The Fighter vs. The Writer. “I knew that was going to be my last fight. Through training, through my camp, the walkout and everything, I changed my walkout song even and it wasn’t an intentional retirement song or anything but it was kind of like it was a song that I always wanted to walk out to, Billy Joel The Entertainer. I knew all through.
“After the fight, I really knew it was the right choice because of the way I felt in there. I didn’t want to feel like that again.”
According to Benavidez, the emotions and the way he approached the fight against Askarov told him everything he needed to know about retiring from the sport.
Despite a 30-plus fight career, he felt something so different in what would become the final fight of his career that he knew it was time to walk away.
“I’ve never been scared honestly in a fight in my life, no matter what I was doing, who I was fighting, how big it was,” Benavidez said. “I wasn’t necessarily scared of Askarov or anything. It’s not like he was intimidating. I’ve fought everybody. But I was scared to lose and I’ve never felt that before. I let it all out and if that ends in a loss, it does, but I know I gave it everything and I have nothing left and I take the chances.
“But I was almost so scared to lose that I didn’t try and win. It takes the possibility of losing to try to win but I was just getting through it. It was almost like I couldn’t wait for it to end.”
Beyond that particular fight, Benavidez was also cognizant of the way the end comes crashing down around so many athletes who just refuse to recognize the signs that their fighting career is over.
It’s an incredibly difficult reality to face but Benavidez never wanted to be the fighter who had friends, family and even his promoter telling him that he needed to hang up his gloves.
“It was important for me to be able to walk away on my own terms, still knowing I can compete,” Benavidez said. “Knowing I feel fine to compete in the top 10 in the world. I think a lot of that happened because I had a good career.”
Of course with retirement comes questions about a possible return to action because these days it seems hardly anyone actually goes away and stays away forever.
With absolute certainty, Benavidez is confident that he’s competed for the last time and that’s a huge part of the reason why he didn’t announce his retirement back in March following the fight against Askarov.
“The thing is I’ve actually known I was going to be retired for a while,” Benavidez said. “I thought all of this through. Basically after my last fight, I lost and I wasn’t going to go ‘I’m retired,’ not that it would have been emotional because I knew I before, but I still gave it time. I’m going to give it time. What if in a month I train and I’m like ‘oh my god I miss this!’
“Cause it’s a thing I always did with passion. Something that I loved. What if I start training and it’s like ‘let’s gear up for another one’ or whatever. Two months had passed since my last fight and I didn’t miss training at all. I hadn’t trained at all. I didn’t miss training. That’s what it takes to fight. If I don’t miss training then I’m not going to miss fighting.”
It’s now been nearly seven months since Benavidez last competed and he still hasn’t set foot in the gym for a training session.
The fact that he’s not missing that part of the job is the surest sign yet that Benavidez is happy with his decision to retire without any possibility that he’ll return for another fight.
“I’ve worked out a little bit, not a lot but I have still haven’t gone in the gym and that was kind of my tell,” Benavidez said. “If I don’t want to go train and I don’t miss training, I’m not going to miss fighting. I thought that through. I let these six months since my last fight really help me with the decision to see if I missed it.
“It was something well though through. You won’t see me making another return or anything weird.”