For Benavidez, the fight to be number one in his division was a decade-long process. Neither his enthusiasm for the Octagon, nor his efforts in the days of grueling training, have never wavered. He pokes fun at the “rise and grind” mantra paraded by other athletes.
“I’m not ‘rising and grinding.’ I go to practice with a smile because I get to do this. I think about single moms that are really grinding. They made lunch and put their kids to school, and now they’re going to work as a cashier and dealing with rude people. I think of that. [Whereas] I get to wake up and have fun, to do something I like and that challenges me every day.”
It sounds too good to be true, and Benavidez admits he didn’t always “enjoy the journey.” When he first entered the sport, he was bewitched by the belt. Benavidez said he would stare at a picture of the belt as he sprinted on the treadmill — he was convinced that only a title would prove he was the “best.” Now, Benavidez credits his wife and coaches as his driving force.