Joseph Benavidez signs new four-fight UFC deal – at flyweight

LAS VEGAS – Have rumors of the UFC flyweight division’s demise been greatly exaggerated?

Veteran 125-pound fighter Joseph Benavidez (26-5 MMA, 13-3 UFC) today announced he’s signed a new four-fight deal in the weight class he’s fought in since 2012.

But surely, the promotion hedged its bet, notifying Benavidez he could be forced to move up if the UFC shuttered the flyweight division, right?

“Didn’t bring it up,” Benavidez told reporters today at a media event ahead of his fight with Dustin Ortiz (19-7 MMA, 8-5 UFC) at UFC on ESPN+ 1 this month.

The booking of a flyweight headliner between champ Henry Cejudo and bantamweight champ T.J. Dillashaw for UFC on ESPN+ 1 gives Benavidez new hope when it comes to the fate of 125-pound fighters.

When his colleagues started popping up in the Japanese MMA promotion Rizin FF, Benavidez was a little caught off guard, because he’d heard nothing about closing up shop at 125.

Despite multiple reports from cut flyweights who said ex-champ Demetrious Johnson was a preview to the end, and UFC President Dana White’s previous shutdown threat, Benavidez didn’t know he could be forced to move to bantamweight.

“I think everything really chilled out once they got that fight, because it’s steady, and we can’t really do anything in the division until after this fight,” Benavidez said. “Business as usual until you hear otherwise.”

Benavidez’s new deal arrives as he prepares for a rematch with Ortiz on the Jan. 19 card at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y. Initially tapped to meet standout Deiveson Figueiredo, he then agreed to be a backup fighter for the main event in case Cejudo or Dillashaw was ruled out.

The idea of not fighting didn’t sit well with Benavidez, though, and the promotion eventually paired him with Ortiz.

Benavidez needs no motivation to show UFC fans that flyweights are worth having around. He’s always tried his hardest and rooted for his colleagues to win bonuses. Whether the 125-pound division remains a staple or not, he said he’ll continue to perform. In truth, he’s used to feeling a little unwanted.

“It was never welcomed as much as big guys, period,” he said. “There was never, ‘We’re on the chopping block,’ but there was always something because we were the new division. I fight my balls off either way. But since the start, we’ve needed to prove we’re the best, skilled division.”

For more on UFC on ESPN+ 1, check out the UFC Rumors section of the site.

Source: USA Today – MMA Junkie

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