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UFC 216 interview: Beneil Dariush talks CTE, RDA, & Evan Dunham

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The UFC’s #12 lightweight Beneil Dariush spoke to Bloody Elbow ahead of his UFC 216 tilt with Evan Dunham about recovering from a knockout loss, CTE concerns, and a future title shot for RDA at 170.

The UFC’s #12 lightweight, Beneil Dariush, is stepping back into the Octagon after sustaining a devastating knockout loss to Edson Barboza at UFC Fight Night: Belfort vs. Gastelum, back in March of this year. This Saturday night, Dariush will be returning to action, on the UFC 216 main card, against longtime UFC veteran Evan Dunham, who is currently ranked #14 in the world. En route to Las Vegas, Nevada with training partners Giga Chikadze and Arthur Estrazulas, Dariush took a moment to talk with Bloody Elbow about bouncing back from such a serious KO, his plans to finish Evan Dunham, and predicts a future title shot for former teammate Rafael dos Anjos at 170.

Saturday’s UFC 216 main card will air live on Pay-Per-View at 10:00 P.M. ET with the prelims starting at 8:00 P.M. ET on FX. The Exclusive Fight Pass prelims will begin at 6:15 P.M. ET.

  • What are your thoughts on getting back to action at UFC 216 on October 7, 2017?

“Glad to be back; I’ve been away for awhile. I like to stay active, and it’s been a bit too long.”

  • How do you feel about your performance in your knockout loss to Edson Barboza?

“Obviously really frustrated. I felt really good in that fight. I felt like I was in control. I made the mistake again at the end when I shot for that takedown. The distance wasn’t correct and the penetration step wasn’t correct. He took advantage of that so good on him.”

  • It seemed like your plan was to pressure Barboza and not let him get set; do you feel like you were doing a solid job of that up until the end?

“That’s pretty much how I try to fight normally. I’m a pressure fighter, so I don’t feel like I was doing anything out of the ordinary. I feel my striking is the best in the division, so that was the gameplan, just to go fight the way I normally fight.”

  • It looked like a pretty serious knockout; how long does it take to bounce back from something like that?

“Obviously, we went to the doctor, checked everything out. Nothing was wrong. There wasn’t any serious complications, but with things like that, sometimes the MRI doesn’t show. So, we just took a long time off, and I didn’t spar for awhile, focused on only grappling and things like that, and helping out my teammates. Then, I jumped back into the mix after I felt I had taken enough time.”

  • With all of the recent CTE studies coming out, do the long term effects of sustaining repeated blows to the head worry you at all?

“For sure. That’s why I want to be safe and do things the right way. A lot of the CTE stuff, you see in football, and that’s because of the constant collision. These guys are doing it every week, and it’s not like the running back is getting this problem, or the quarterback, it’s the guys on the front line that keep going into each other. It’s those guys. So, I try to avoid that same problem, where I’m basically going crazy every week, or twice a week. I try to be as smart as I can with being a defensive fighter, where I don’t as much punishment.”

  • Your UFC 216 opponent, Evan Dunham, has been around forever. He even fought Sean Sherk at UFC 119 back in 2010. What do you think about the matchup?

“Yeah, like you said, he’s been around for awhile. He’s definitely a veteran. I think gritty is the good word to say; he’s a gritty veteran, but I think that’s where it ends. I think I have the style, I have the game to shut him down, and shut him down quickly. I don’t think his experience alone will be enough to separate us, as far as skill goes.”

  • Dunham has shown improvements in his counter striking, and often returns fire with a 3-5 punch combo, but is really known for his stellar durability. Toughness and salty veteran experience aside, do you see any clear path to victory here for your opponent?

“Yeah, anybody with a heartbeat has a path to victory. All it takes is one right punch on the chin and things change, similar to my last fight. I’m going to take out every option. I’m going to take out every corner, everywhere he can go, I’m going to shut it down, and then I’m going to finish this fight. There will be no path to victory when I shut down every path. There’s always a path, until you shut it down.”

  • How is training camp going for UFC 216?

“Training has been great; I’ve had Arthur Estrazulas and Giga Chikadze. Arthur is one of the guys we’ve had at the gym for a long time. He’s fought for LFA, ACB, and I think he’s going to be the next guy, him and Giga are going to be the next guys into the UFC. Giga’s working on it right now; he fights for GLORY. He’s thinking about moving into the Tuesday Night Contenders Series, and then from there to the UFC. These have been my training partners, and these guys are just animals.”

  • Has Giga changed his nickname yet to “The People’s Champion?”

“I got to talk to him about that. He likes the name; he likes it so maybe. He has too many nicknames. That’s the problem. Some people call him “Giga Kick,” some people call him “Giga Byte.” They got some lame nicknames and some good ones, but there’s too many out there.”

Chikadze exclaims from the background, “I like it!”

Check out Bloody Elbow’s interview with Giga Chikadze:

  • One of your former training partners Rafael dos Anjos has made the move to welterweight, and recently waxed Neil Magny. Do you still keep in contact with RDA?

“I do, we talk often actually. Man, he looked great! I was really happy to see him do so well. It was so fun to watch that fight, just watching him do what he does. I felt like I was watching the old Rafa. The Rafa that fought Anthony Pettis and things like that when he was making his way up. I felt his last couple of fights, with the weightcut, he was really having a hard time performing the way he should.”

  • Will RDA get to a championship fight at 170?

“For sure. For sure. I think he might even get there after the next fight. I don’t know who they’re going to put in front of him, but if he shows another performance like that, give him a title shot, you know.”

  • How can people follow you on social media?

“All of my social media outlets, I’ve got Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and it’s all Beneil Dariush. I have a unique name, not too many people have that name, so if you can spell my name, you can go find me.”

Watch Benny Dariush duke it out with Evan Dunham, at UFC 216 on October 7, 2017. Stay tuned to Bloody Elbow for all of your UFC event coverage including interviews, play-by-play, highlights, and more!