Following a top-notch training camp and a healthy weight cut, the two-time flyweight title contender felt like the third time really was the charm as he prepared to face off with the Brazilian to crown a new champion in the wake of Henry Cejudo vacating his belt.
“I’m not a “meant to be” guy,” Benavidez explained when speaking to MMA Fighting. “I’m going to do everything I can and at the end of the day I still only have a chance of it happening. This fight had me believing in things.
“I’m not a meant to be guy but I felt like this is what people must think and feel when they do say stuff like that. I could not be shook all fight week by anything.”
Even when Figueiredo came in two-and-a-half pounds over the weight limit for a flyweight title fight, Benavidez didn’t blink when it came time to accept the challenge.
He negotiated for a portion of his opponent’s fee but there was never a thought to cancel the fight because Benavidez was absolutely confident he was going to win no matter what advantages Figueiredo had the next night.
“It never crossed my mind,” Benavidez said. “Because I was so in the zone. When I was told that he didn’t make weight it was basically the same reaction as somebody telling me he did make weight. I nodded my head like the fight was on.”
In the aftermath of the fight, Benavidez can reflect back now and see how much it likely benefitted Figueiredo to stop his weight cut short of the 125-pound limit and then begin rehydrating his body. By the time they set foot in the cage the next night, Benavidez is quite certain that Figueiredo had a significant size advantage.
“People think it was three pounds,” Benavidez explained. “I weighed in at 124.5 [pounds], he weighed in at 127.5. This is what people don’t realize. It’s not three pounds. If you are missing weight by that much, you are coming down from such a drastic weight to get down to that.
“When you’re a professional and you make weight like I did, I was the first one on the scale. I was under championship weight. Did everything I needed to. Best weight cut of my career. That is weeks and weeks of discipline and being at the right weight.”
As if the weight miss wasn’t bad enough, disaster then struck when Benavidez clashed heads with Figueiredo midway through the second round.
Benavidez was wobbled immediately as blood began pouring down the side of his face as a result of the cut he suffered from the accidental head butt. It wasn’t intentional by any means but Benavidez says as soon as the head butt happened, he was done.
“The head butt was the end of the fight,” Benavidez said. “I didn’t go out. The finishing and coming up felt like a replay of sorts. I didn’t even know I got head butted because at that point you’re just rocked. You’re out of it. That was it. That’s the best I can say.
“You see a TKO happening and maybe it’s like ‘that uppercut rocked him!’ and then basically all he has to do is hit a target. That was me but that uppercut was the head butt.”
Obviously, Benavidez isn’t claiming that Figueiredo head butted him on purpose but he was effectively out on his feet before that final right hand ended the fight.
“Imagine someone just slamming you in the f*cking head with a bowling ball,” Benavidez said. “For one, you bleed, when you don’t have the wherewithal to know what’s happening and you see the blood spurting out. I’m also out. My head is spinning. You get hit in the head with the bowling ball, you’re bleeding and they put a guy f*cking two feet in front of you and say go. That’s what it was like.
“I took his best shots that whole time. Even with that last shot when he was three feet away. He didn’t put me out. I was already stunned by a head butt and I went down. The head butt was the finishing blow.”
In the days following the knockout loss, Benavidez has reflected on what went wrong that night and it’s hard not to allow the moment to overwhelm him.
Three straight losses in title opportunities would weigh on anybody but considering all of the circumstances surrounding the fight, Benavidez admits his emotions have been on overload ever since.
“The disappointment is constant,” Benavidez said. “You think about the opportunity you had and what could have been and what should have been and what you worked for and how ripe the moment was and that it’s over.
“You have those moments of disbelief where you know you’re dealing with that disappointment but you still get up and yell obscenities for no reason because you think of specific things that happened and you still can’t change them.”
Disappointment eventually gives way to frustration but Benavidez has done his best to put everything into perspective since Saturday night ended.
“Frustration, yes, is at an all-time high but to me, life is so much bigger than a fight. Love is so much bigger than a fight. All that stuff,” Benavidez said. “That is a fact. Sometimes, it just takes longer to phase out the disappointment of one thing. It becomes apparent eventually but the day after it’s really hard to see I’m lucky to be alive. No matter what you’re going through, whether it’s this or that, everyone has issues.
“Being alive and having love will at least phase out those issues a little bit. It’s just to the point of dissolving them now. At the end of the day, you’ve got to have perspective on things. I chose to do this and it sucks because I worked so hard for it obviously and I thought I deserved it but it’s just disappointment in myself.”
It’s tough to look at any silver-lining with this result but Benavidez has already heard rumblings that the UFC is looking to book an immediate rematch with Figueiredo in the near future with the flyweight title on the line.
Because Figueiredo missed weight, he wasn’t eligible to take home the belt even after earning the win so the title remains vacant. Add to that, Benavidez truly believes the accidental clash of heads led to the knockout far more than Figueiredo’s punching power and he’s ready to settle their unfinished business.
“That’s 100 percent something I’m interested in,” Benavidez said. “Everyone knows and that’s what everyone is chasing. These are opportunities my whole career and on some nights I’ve obtained greatness but these are the opportunities I’m chasing. I worked for it. Now it’s being presented to me again. What am I going to do? Of course [I’m going to take it].
“I want to go for a title. I thought Dana [White], the bosses, the matchmakers, they all saw what I saw. The guy didn’t make weight. It was already skewed from the beginning and then the freaking head butt happens. I think this is more deserving than some [title fights] that are happening, even in the near future. Yeah, of course, I want that. I don’t feel like I was given a fair shake.”
Putting everything else aside, Benavidez may have come up short in the result but that’s not going to deter him from trying again in a rematch with Figueiredo.
His goals remain the same and no loss will change that.
“For me, of course, I want a freaking rematch,” Benavidez said. “I’m not afraid. I’m not afraid of f*cking greatness. I’m not afraid of failure. I’m not afraid of any of that. I’m lucky to have the opportunities to do it.
“Some people go their entire careers and never get to fight for a world title. You think I’m afraid of going for a f*cking fourth time? Fifth? No. That’s the goal. I’ll fight for a world title every time if I’m that good and I’m there.”