UFC veteran Joseph Benavidez has announced his retirement at 37-years-old, bringing an end to a 15-fight career in the sport.
“I’ve known for a while,” Benavidez told MMA Fighting. “I’ve always fought to be the best and also because it was fun. I probably knew my last title shot was my last shot ever so that was kind of not going to happen for me.
“I still knew I could compete in the top five. I could beat guys in the top five, top 10 easy but one of the main things is a lot of these guys that are coming up that are killers or I see them, it’s their UFC debut and they take pictures with me in the back and say, ‘I’ve looked up to you for so long, I used to get off school and watch you in WEC with my dad, I look up to you’ — it’s like, I don’t want to fight these guys next, these killers. I don’t want to beat them up or have them beat me up. There was no more fights that were going to be fun.
“One half of the people, like the younger generation used to watch me on TV and tell me they look up to me,” Benavidez explained. “The other half of the generation, I had the connection with on The Ultimate Fighter. There’s just not fights there for me anymore that excite me to have fun. They’d only be for money or whatever. I’d never looked at it like a job I’m doing for money. It’s always been to have fun and to be the best.
“It’s not really fun to me to fight people that I coached on The Ultimate Fighter or people that looked up to me. It’s not really fun to not fight to be the best either. Taking those two things into account, it just wasn’t there anymore and it’s time to move on.”
For many years Benavidez was widely recognised as one of the leading flyweight fighters in the world, and indeed often held down the No.1 contender spot, including a 15-fight period where his only two losses came against the dominant champion of that era, Demetrious Johnson.
Then came a disappointing, but narrow split decision loss to Sergio Pettis, before getting back on track with a trio of wins.
However, age finally started to catch up with Benavidez in 2020 as he twice endured one-sided defeats against Deiveson Figueiredo, with a decision loss to Askar Askarov in March of this year proving to be the final fight of his career.
Nevertheless, Benavidez overall 28-8 record remains impressive, including being tied for the most wins in flyweight history in the UFC, as well as having beaten the likes of Henry Cejudo, Ian McCall, Miguel Torres, John Moraga, Eddie Wineland, Rani Yahya, Alex Perez, Tim Elliott and many more along the way.
“What I’ve done my whole career is go after this title and be so close to it, I’ve said many times that’s my goal,” Benavidez said. “Once I know I can’t be the best, there’s not really a point for me to fight.
“Some people do it for this, some people do it for that, but I don’t do it to be the 15th best in the world. I can still prove I’m one of the best after even these last two fights where I’m not going to be ‘the best’ and I can still go fight at the top with the best, and that’s what I want to do.”