Perennial UFC flyweight contender Joseph Benavidez competed for the WEC bantamweight title in 2010, before No. 12-ranked UFC flyweight Alex Perez even launched his professional MMA career. And by the time Benavidez was fighting Demetrious Johnson for the UFC flyweight title, Perez was in the early stages of his career, fighting for Tachi Palace Fights. But at The Ultimate Fighter 28 Finale, Perez and Benavidez will square off against each other.
Perez vs. Benavidez
“A little bit,” Perez, 26, told MMASucka when asked if it felt a bit weird to be fighting Benavidez. “I grew up watching this guy. I met him a few times at Tachi Palace. He’s a cool guy. It’s kind of crazy fighting a guy who’s been around for awhile.”
Perez said he jumped on the offer as soon as the UFC made it. He enters the bout on an eight-fight winning streak, with UFC wins over Jose Torres, Eric Shelton and Carls John de Tomas. He feels Benavidez, one of the best fighters to never win UFC or WEC gold, is “definitely” his toughest test to date.
“His only losses have come to top guys: Dominick Cruz, Demetrious Johnson and Sergio Pettis. Those aren’t slouches,” Perez said.
Perez’s Future in a Post-Flyweight UFC
It’d normally feel natural that the fight will be contested at flyweight, given that’s the weight class Benavidez has made a name for himself in and the one where Perez is becoming a fast-rising prospect. But, as reported by FloCombat, with the UFC’s decision to likely scrap the flyweight division after the conclusion of its last title fight, Henry Cejudo vs. T.J. Dillashaw, Perez doesn’t understand why his fight was booked at 125 as opposed to 135.
He expects to move up to bantamweight once his fight with Benavidez is in the rear-view mirror, win or lose.
“I’m expecting to win, stay in the UFC and make a run at 135,” he said. “Nothing really changes. I feel like what I’ve done secures my job but that’s why I have a manager to manage all that.”
If Perez defeats Benavidez, he would’ve likely been no more than one more fight away from a title shot. So, the division’s dissolution would come at the wrong time. While it’d make sense for him to get an immediate crack at a top-10 bantamweight, Perez said he’s open to fighting anyone the UFC puts in front of him.
“I’m just happy to fight for the best organization in the world,” he said.
For the time being, Perez is focused on Benavidez. The fight goes down Friday, November 30 from The Pearl at The Palms in Las Vegas, NV. The crowd is in for a treat, as Perez predicts that he and Benavidez will earn “Fight of the Night” honors.
“I’m expecting a full-out war,” he said. “This guy’s a veteran, he’s been here for a long time. He’s no slouch. I know he can take a punch, so I’m expecting a 15 minute war.”
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