Saturday night one of the very best fighters in the world will compete at UFC 128. Unless he finishes his fight with Team Quest's Ian Loveland quickly, fans who aren't present at the Prudential Center are unlikely to see it. Joseph Benavidez is the second ranked bantamweight in the entire world; somehow this amazing fighter is not considered worthy of the main card or even the televised preliminaries. Something is wrong with that picture. Even Benavidez himself was a bit surprised by the developments, telling Heavy.com's Jeremy Botter that he would just have to go out and do his best:
They put me on the undercard and everybody complained about it. It kinda shocked me, too, because I thought I would at least end up on Facebook. I definitely think I deserve it. I go out and put on a great fight every single time. There is always excitement in my fights.
Matchmakers Joe Silva and Sean Shelby are playing chess when most of us are still figuring out checkers. There is usually a method to their madness and Benavidez told Bloody Elbow in an interview earlier this year that he understands why he isn't going to get high profile fights right away:
I know it. I'm in such a weird position. It seems like only I could ever be in such a position. That's just my life. I lost to Cruz already, was almost on top but didn't quite get there, I am in weird position. I think the matchmakers would agree that I'm on the level where I should be fighting a contender, a top ten or top five guy every single fight. Which I have for my last six fights, I've fought guys in the top ten. But I can't fight for a title, I can't fight Cruz again anytime soon, until we both wipe out everyone else in the division. And I won't fight Faber either.
But they know if they put me against another top guy who they want to challenge for the title afterwards, that I'll beat them. So they'll lose a contender. They can't do a number one contender fight with me because if I win, I can't fight Cruz. And they'd lose the other guy's legitimacy by me beating him. It's a weird position. They're going to have to find someone with enough balls to take a big step up. I'm young in the sport though. I think I'm going to be doing this for a long time. So it will work out.
While that explains why Benavidez isn't in the cage knocking off other contenders. It doesn't explain why they can't find a place on the air for one of the sport's very best. Joseph Benavidez belongs on television, on the main card. His status in the sport demands it. But, true to form, the big hearted Team Alpha Male fighter is taking it all in stride:
When it’s all said and done, I want to leave a legacy and let everyone know that I was one of the best fighters to ever grace the planet. I want to go out there and give it my all, to be a fan favorite and build that huge fan following. I want to inspire and change people’s lives through what I do here.
And of course all of the championships and wins I want to accomplish, and hopefully help evolve the sport. I want to get every bonus there is to get in the UFC. I want the submission, knockout and fight of the night bonus. And of course all of the things outside of fighting that it can bring me, just living a great life through fighting and this being my career.
I’m just grateful for being able to take care of my family and everyone around me.