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Saturday night, Joseph Benavidez all but solidified his spot as the next in line to fight champion Henry Cejudo at 125 pounds.
The kicker? Cejudo’s next fight might not be at flyweight. The former Olympian is currently healing from shoulder surgery and when he finally does return, there’s a chance he’ll defend his bantamweight strap instead.
Following his TKO victory over Jussier Formiga (23-6 MMA, 9-5 UFC) at UFC on ESPN 3 at Target Center in Minneapolis, Benavidez (28-5 MMA, 15-3 UFC) took to the mic and revealed his new nickname, “Joey Two Times.”
Because he stopped Alex Perez “twice in one night” and won back-to-back rematches against Dustin Ortiz and Jussier Formiga, Benavidez said he earned the name “Joey Two Times” from his coaches. Now, Benavidez believes the prophecy needs to be carried out in the form of a rematch with Cejudo, a man he beat in 2016 in what stands as the champ-champ’s most recent loss.
“The performances I think speak for themselves as far as getting a shot,” Benavidez said in a post-fight news conference. “I mean, the fact is the guy is on top of the world. I beat him. Why wouldn’t he want to come avenge a loss even in the state of the division? The other division, which is bantamweight, I’m the fight that by far makes the most sense.”
Waiting is nothing new for the 18-fight UFC veteran. Regardless what the future holds for Cejudo, Benavidez isn’t impatient when it comes to a title shot.
“I’d hold out,” Benavidez said. “I mean, he’s in surgery. I’ve sat out months before. I’ve had ACL surgery 18 months. I’ve gone in between fights active 10 months. That was just for a fight because there (weren’t) opponents. In this case, the opponent I want, there’s a huge prize there and it’s the fight to make. What? I gotta wait four or five months I think he said until he can fight. That’s nothing.”
He later added, “If I have to wait for a surgery for a world title fight, it’s a longer time to prepare to get better for five rounds. That’s not a problem.”
On ESPN+’s post-fight coverage, UFC president Dana White was noncommittal on granting him the next shot at Cejudo but was complimentary of the Benavidez and his performance.
“It’s definitely not good for Benavidez,” White said. “He’s going to be in this waiting period, but I know that (Cejudo) came out and said he wants to defend that belt first. So Benavidez looked good tonight. He got busted up in that first round. He got two really bad cuts in really bad places. He didn’t let it get to his head, and didn’t let it throw his game off. Landed that nice head kick.
“Benavidez has been a guy that’s been in this company for a very long time. He’s a hard-working guy, tows the line, does whatever he needs to do. It’s good to see him win tonight against a really tough opponent and get into the position he’s in.”
Saturday’s victory accounted for, Benavidez has now won nine out of his last 10 bouts. Two of his three losses under the UFC banner have come to former champion Demetrious Johnson, while the third was a split decision loss to Sergio Pettis in 2018.
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