Former UFC Title Challenger Retires: ‘I Was Crying in the Backyard’

joseph benavidez retires

Getty Joseph Benavidez punches Deiveson Figueiredo during their July 2020 UFC Flyweight title fight.

Legendary UFC fighter Joseph Benavidez has retired after a 15-year MMA career that included four UFC Flyweight Championship fights and a shot at the WEC Bantamweight title. The 37-year-old Benavidez told ESPN’s Aaron Bronsteter he had been planning to retire for a while and made his retirement official recently. Word of his departure from the UFC came after Benavidez was removed from the company’s rankings.

The Texas-born Benavidez finishes his career with a record of 28-8, including a 20-8 record in the UFC and WEC. The Team Alpha Male and Xtreme Couture-trained fighter grew up in New Mexico, where he was a state champion wrestler at Las Cruces High School and made his MMA debut in June 2006. He joined the WEC in 2008 and made the transition to the UFC in 2011 when the two companies merged.

Benavidez lost two Flyweight title fights to Demetrious Johnson, in 2012 and 2013, and two championship fights to Deiveson Figueiredo in 2020. Benavidez lost his last fight, to Askar Askarov, by decision, at UFC 259 in March 2021. Benavidez finished his career with 13 knockout wins, the most in UFC flyweight history.

Benavidez’s wife, UFC and ESPN reporter Megan Olivi, wrote on Twitter, “Retirement adventures are gonna be fun ☺️👑❤️ My King Forever @JoeJitsu.”

UFC President Dana White told ESPN in a statement, “Joe Benavidez has been a pillar of the lighter weight divisions for years. Since joining WEC in 2008 and then UFC in 2011, he’s used his unstoppable pace and nasty guillotine to remain at the top of two divisions for 13 years. … His epic battles with (Dominick) Cruz, (Demetrious) Johnson and (Henry) Cejudo will never be forgotten. He was a constant professional and carried himself in a way that demanded respect from his peers.”

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Benavidez Told ESPN ‘Nothing Can Really Sum Up This in Pictures or Words’

Joe Benavidez told ESPN’s Bronsteter he hadn’t had time to put up anything on his social media about retiring. In a video posted by Bronsteter, Joe B said, “It just kind of came very sudden. I’ve actually known I was going to retire for a while. But you have to make it official to retire.” He said he told UFC matchmaker Mick Maynard he was retiring and informed USADA he was retired.

“I’ve kind of been retired in a way,” Benavidez said. “I haven’t had time to post and really take it all in. I’ve just been looking at everyone’s messages and a lot of posts, I’ve known I’m going to be retired … I also didn’t think it was going to be an emotional thing, but reading a bunch of stuff, I was just crying in the backyard out here. It’s been a good day. … It’s going to be really hard to put into how much 15 years of this and everyone’s support has meant. … I feel like nothing can really sum up this in pictures or words, how I feel about what I’ve been able to do and accomplish. And the people I’ve been able to meet and how grateful I am for all of it.”

Benavidez told MMA Fighting:

I’ve known for a while. I’ve always fought to be the best and also because it was fun. I probably knew my last title shot was my last shot ever so that was kind of not going to happen for me. I still knew I could compete in the top five. I could beat guys in the top five, top 10 easy but one of the main things is a lot of these guys that are coming up that are killers or I see them, it’s their UFC debut and they take pictures with me in the back and say, ‘I’ve looked up to you for so long, I used to get off school and watch you in WEC with my dad, I look up to you’ — it’s like, I don’t want to fight these guys next, these killers. I don’t want to beat them up or have them beat me up. There was no more fights that were going to be fun.

He told MMA Fighting, “It’s not really fun to not fight to be the best either.” He added to ESPN, “For 10 years, I’ve been in title contention. Two different weight classes. It was kind of weird, because I would always think to myself, ‘Is it weird for other people to fight and know they’ll never win the title? Or are they just doing it for the job?’ I never felt like it was a job to me. I didn’t want it to become like that, either. I always just fought to be the best. After my last title fight, I felt I’ll probably never go for a title again. Then it’s like, what am I really doing it for?”

Benavidez’s Wife, UFC Reporter Megan Olivi, Posted a Heartfelt Tribute to Her Husband on Instagram After His Retirement Was Made Public

Megan Olivi wrote a tribute to her husband on Instagram, saying, “You, my husband, are incredible. A pioneer. A legend. A record holder. And most importantly, a wonderful human being. I am beyond proud of you. Thank you for taking me along on this wild ride, it’s been the honor of my life to be by your side all these years.”

Olivi added, “As so many have said today, the sport is better because you were in it. I can’t wait to see what adventures the next years bring, the sky is the limit for you. I love and appreciate you in every facet of your life. I hope you feel the love you deserve as you close this chapter of your life. No more weight cuts so let’s eat!”

She also pointed out “some amazing stats,” including that Benavidez had the first flyweight win in the UFC and currently has the most wins in the division’s history. HE also has 19 flyweight fights, the most in the division’s history, along with the most knockouts by a UFC flyweight.

Asked about being called a pioneer, Benavidez told ESPN, “I don’t think it’s anything I expected to do or be. I don’t know. I can’t even really explain how, I guess, I can be really considered that. You’re not doing it to be that. You’re doing it because you love it. It’s a weird thing. It’s one of those things where something happens and it’s really good, but you can’t even imagine it being that good.”

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