SACRAMENTO - Outside the Octagon, Joseph Benavidez doesn't look like your stereotypical mixed martial arts fighter. When we caught up with him three weeks before his Wednesday UFC fight he was wearing a bright orange "Beef Cake" tank top and a tiny chirping dog was following him around the gym.
"This is my dog Benny, he is a little maltese yorkie, he inspires me in the gym," said Benavidez with a huge grin. "I gotta put food in that bowl baby."
But don't let the accessories and the easy-going attitude fool you. Benavidez still remains one of the most dangerous fighters in the UFC Flyweight division (#1 rankedcontender).
Benavidez (18-3) is coming off back to back winswith a decision overIan McCalland a TKO over Darren Uyenoyama where he used a devastating liver shot to end the fight last April. Ask him about the body punch, and he can't help but get excited.
The body punch and improvement in his stand-up game can be credited to the arrival of Team Alpha Male Head Duane Ludwig and his "Bang" Muay Thai system. Ever since Ludwig took over in Sacramento the team has gone 12-0 in the UFC.
"We believe in it, and we see the system working and it just gives you more confidence with the momentum we got going," Benavidez told News10. "So it is great to have a leader and Duane is the perfect fit."
Benavidez will need all of his tools this Wednesday when he faces a tough Jussier Formiga ordaSilva(15-2) for UFC Fight Night.
"He trains with Jose Aldo and Renan Barao, two champions and he is no slouch in the stand-up but he prefers to take it to the ground. I welcome him trying to take me down. He is going to get caught with hard punches coming in." explained Benavidez. "I've built a reputation of beating "black belts" (Jiu-Jitsu), hopefully he is next on the list."
But Benavidez will be fighting more than just his opponent, but a loud and hostile Brazilian crowd.
"I've been to fights in Brazil and the energy is incredible. They are the best fans in the world," Benavidez said. "Obviously they won't be cheering for me as much as my opponent, but by the end of the night I am going to fight my heart out and hopefully steal their hearts."
The positive and easy-going attitude is something Benavidez had toreteach himself ever since losing to Demetrious Johnson for the first ever UFC Flyweight Belt last year.
"That fight for some reason was life or death to me, and I couldn't relax and it carried into the fight," said a thoughtful Benavidez. "I lost and I didn't die, and I had my family and friends and my dog. I don't need to be mad to fight. I remember being mad before that fight. I'm back to being happy with what I am doing, being happy I get to do this for a living."
The Benavidez-Formiga fight is part of the UFC Fight Night 28 on Fox Sports One Wednesday night.