Joseph Benavidez has put his support behind his division’s champion Henry Cejudo as he looks to defeat the man who claims he has been sent to kill 125lbs.
Flyweight is in something of an odd spot after its longtime champion Demetrious Johnson was picked up by rising Asian promotion ONE Championship and several of the division’s fighters were released from their contracts.
And while it hasn’t been exactly confirmed by the UFC brass that the division is doomed, it does appear as though a lot will depend on the UFC Brooklyn headlining super-fight showdown between Henry Cejudo and TJ Dillashaw – a matchup that has been seen by some as crucial for the future of 125lbs.
According to divisional veteran Joseph Benavidez, that’s more than enough for him to put his support behind his old rival – a man he coached against during the 24th season of The Ultimate Fighter
Speaking to MMAWeekly (via Yahoo Sports), the two-time flyweight title challenger has agreed that his rivalry with Cejudo isn’t enough to see him root against the champion in his showdown against his old-teammate Dillashaw.
“It’s a weird thing ‘rooting’ cause I don’t wish a loss on anyone. I don’t. Because I know how that feels and how much work I put into it when I fight. On a bigger notion, you look at like a team or who’s behind you, or what side you’re on, I’m on the side of flyweight forever.
“In a way, TJ made it about ‘I’m crushing the division, I’m getting paid to do it, I’m killing it’. So I don’t think any flyweight out there doesn’t want Henry to go out there and prove how good we are and being able to do it against a guy like TJ, who is considered one of the best pound-for-pound [fighters] in general coming down to the weight.
“I don’t think there’s any flyweight out there not rooting for the champion at our weight to go out there and prove what we can do.”
Dillashaw hasn’t exactly been keeping quiet about the fact that he believes that the UFC are paying him to stamp out the 125lb division once and for all.
Benavidez and Dillashaw were both teammates at Urijah Faber-run Team Alpha Male gym before the bantamweight champion’s somewhat turbulent departure, a departure that saw him engage in one of the most memorable rivalries in recent times with Cody Garbrandt before solidifying himself as the 135lb division’s king.
“How could you not root for [Cejudo] after things T.J. is saying about flyweight? He’s out there representing flyweight and I want to fight him. That’s a whole other weird dynamic. I have a lot of respect for [Cejudo] and that’s another rivalry that could live on.”
“He’s a beast. You don’t become an Olympic champion without having everything. That’s what it was against Demetrious, it was execution. Everyone is obviously athletic in the division but he went out there and executed and put his mind on something and took out the best of all time.”
It’s an incredibly unique narrative and while a win for Dillashaw will not exactly guarantee the demise of the 125lb-rs, the stakes do seem to be quite high in the UFC Brooklyn headliner – something ESPN‘s Ariel Helwani pointed out back in November.
Brilliant idea alert: have the fate of the flyweight division on the line when Cejudo fights Dillashaw in *January.
Allow me to set the scene: pic.twitter.com/SHpNqLX4l2
— Ariel Helwani (@arielhelwani) November 14, 2018
Cillian Cunningham, Pundit Arena