You could forgive Joseph Benavidez and Demetrious Johnson if they feel like the odd men out heading into next week's UFC 152 card in Toronto.
After all, they were once in the main event of the show. But then the UFC 151 debacle happened, and before they knew what hit them, the flyweights were relegated to co-main event status, shunted downward by Jon Jones and Vitor Belfort and their not-all-that-anticipated light heavyweight title fight.
I think I'd be just a little bit angry, or feel a little bit overlooked, if I took time out of my day to participate in a media call to promote my fight and ended up fielding less than five total questions. I'd probably be a tad bitter if my flyweight championship bout—the first in the UFC's history, by the way—was an afterthought to the still-hot discussion topic of UFC 151 and whether or not Jones feels now like he made a mistake.
But Benavidez and Johnson remain cool as cucumbers. They can't control where they're placed on the card, and so they focus instead on the process and on achieving the ultimate outcome: becoming the first-ever UFC flyweight champion.
"The best way to deal with it for me is keeping my eye on prize and that’s the UFC belt," Benavidez said during the media call. "When I got into the sport and wrote down my goals, it was never to be a UFC main event or to be a on a UFC main card. It was to be the UFC champion. I still get to do that, so my eye's on that prize and that's why I’m 100 percent focused."
"I'm super excited. I can't wait to get in there and mix it up with Joseph," Johnson said. "He's a great competitor, and like he said, to be able to make history and be the first-ever fighter to be crowned flyweight champion in a new weight class? I’m speechless. I agree. I believe we’re both going to deliver, and there's a reason why Dana White opened up the flyweight division and had the tournament—had the best four guys in the world basically introducing the weight class. And we’re going to deliver on Sept. 22."
Keeping their eyes on the prize is just about the only thing both fighters can do at this point. After all, the flyweight division is a new creation, and with new weight classes comes the long, difficult process of building up stars and presenting the top fighters as legitimate main event pay-per-view participants.
Benavidez and Johnson both realize they're at the forefront of a new movement of sorts, but both remain focused on the one thing fighters tend to focus on: getting the job done and capturing a title, all while giving the fans who tune in for Jones vs. Belfort a little taste of exciting flyweight action.
"I'm in this sport for a long time and I'm going to continue to fight with my whole heart and put on a show. I believe main events will come. But like I said, my eyes are on the prize, and that's all that matters," Benavidez said. "I still get to do that and now, I get to do that with even more fans watching, so the fact that Jon Jones' fans, Vitor Belfort's fans and even more fans are going to watch it, that’s going to just help the process speed along even quicker for me."
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