World Extreme Cagefighting bantamweight Joseph Benavidez wanted to be a professional volleyball player. He describes it as a “passion” and still plays in a park rec league and every chance he gets at the beach. But 10 wins into an undefeated career it turns out being a professional fighter isn’t too bad, either.
Like many of his peers, Benavidez began his career on a poorly organized nightclub card. “I was the first fight and I demolished the guy with ground and pound with elbows,” he says. “The cops that were there, like the security, made everyone for the rest of the fights put on headgear for MMA.”
The volleyball player excelled on the high school wrestling mat as well, and he tore through regional MMA shows, graduating quickly to Palace Fighting Championship shows and finally to the WEC.
There won’t be any headgear employed when the rising bantamweight steps into the cage at WEC 42. Benavidez’ win over former title challenger Jeff Curran at WEC 40 earned him a number one contender eliminator against Dominic Cruz at the Hard Rock Live in Las Vegas on Aug. 9.
The fighter is laid back and confident – training under former featherweight champion “The California Kid” Urijah Faber seems to have rubbed off on Benavidez in-and-out of the ring. He’ll need that confidence and improvisational skill set when he faces off with Cruz.
“I don’t think he’s easier than Curran. He’s a world-class fighter himself. He just hasn’t been on TV as much,” he says. “I see Cruz going in trying to make his name off of me, where as in my last fight in a co-main event, I was trying to make my name off of Curran, beating someone in the top-10. So Cruz is trying to come in and do the same thing. I don’t think that’s gonna happen. I’ve went too far.”