Flyweight contender Joseph Benavidez has been sidelined since December 2016 due to injury. While no athlete welcomes an injury, the time off ended up being a good thing for the 33-year-old veteran.
“You never want to get injured, of course. That’s just not what you do, but in the scheme of things 12 years of professional fighting and having to sit out nine, ten months for an injury is not that bad. I just think, not that there’s ever a good time to get injured, but if I had to take that time I feel it was a good time,” he said during an appearance on the UFC Unfiltered podcast.
While preparing to face Ben Nguyen at UFC Fight Night 110 in June 2017, Benavidez suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) and required surgery. He's the top-ranked contender in the flyweight division, but has lost twice to champion Demetrious Johnson.
His time off allowed him to heal physically and rekindled his love of fighting.
“The division, I was kind of in purgatory, not that much has happened since. It’s good to just get away from it. Also, it’s like, yes, I love fighting. That’s why I chose it as a career and I feel lucky every day, but whenever you’re fighting every day and doing kind of the same thing, no matter how much you love it, for 12 years, every day, day in and day out, it kind of just becomes like what you do. Even though you feel lucky to do it, it just feels like you’re just doing it everyday. You don’t stop and think about, like the first days, about how lucky you are to be doing it,” said Benavidez.
“With my ACL injury, that’s how I came back feeling, a little more excited. Once you stop having fun doing it, you start to lose a lot of focus and a lot of motivation. Where, when you love what you do you and feel lucky every day and excited, it helps every little aspect of fighting. I come into practice focused.”
That rekindling of Benavidez's fighting fire has spread into all aspects, refreshing his day-to-day outlook as he prepares to step back into the Octagon.
“I’m excited to get in it. I’m not just like, hey, this is what I do every day for 12 years. Having it kind of ripped away from me for 10 months has really changed my perspective now,” he added.
On June 9, at UFC 225, Benavidez makes his Octagon return against No. 4 ranked Sergio Pettis at the United Center in Chicago. He's riding a six-fight winning streak and plans to pick up where he left off prior to the knee injury.