At UFC Fight Night 35, newcomer Beneil Dariush made his mark on the lightweight division by submitting MMA veteran Charlie Brenneman at one minute, 45 seconds of the very first round. Although he entered the Octagon as the underdog, the Iranian-born fighter made light work of “The Spaniard,” and will continue to prove his worth, as he makes his climb up the lightweight division. Dariush was so impressive in his UFC debut that UFC president Dana White sang his praises immediately after the fight.
Dariush not only entered the Octagon as an undefeated mixed martial artist, but he is also a decorated Brazilian jiu-jitsu practitioner. The 24-year-old received his black belt in the latter practice while under the legendary Ralph Gracie brand in less than five years.
During that time, he won the silver medal at the World Jiu-Jitsu Championships (aka Mundials) as a blue, purple and brown belt. He then became the no-gi world champion at those same belt levels, establishing himself as one of the most talented Brazilian jiu-jitsu artists in the world.
However, in 2009, Dariush embarked on a professional MMA career. He then retired from the sport of Brazilian jiu-jitsu, opting not to compete in the Mundials as a black belt. In an exclusive interview with Bleacher Report, Dariush stated the difficulties of having to retire from a sport that has cultivated his fighting style and led him on a successful journey in MMA. He stated:
I retired (from Brazilian jiu-jitsu) to focus solely on MMA…Most people either spend doing the whole year MMA, or they spend the whole year doing jiu-jitsu…It was really difficult for me. It was one of those things that was really breaking me down, because I wanted to do both, but I realized I was never going to achieve greatness in both if I kept doing that. So, I had to pick one. It was one of the hardest choices of my life.
Consequently, Dariush’s choice to leave Brazilian jiu-jitsu competition and work for the largest mixed martial arts company in the world has paid immediate dividends. Leading up to his spectacular performance at UFC Fight Night 35, the jiu-jitsu ace signed a four-fight deal with the UFC.
Dariush was not injured in his fight against Brenneman and stated that, ideally, he’d like to fight four more times this year. Having competed in more than 50 Brazilian jiu-jitsu tournaments, accompanied by his 7-0 record in MMA, when asked about the origin of his passion for the art of fighting, he exclaimed:
I realized that there’s nothing more enjoyable to me than this. One of the things I enjoyed was improving. I kind of want to see what the world looks like as the greatest fighter. When I’m the greatest fighter, that’ll be when I’m satisfied.
At the same time, the lightweight division is laden with talent and sports some of MMA’s most talented fighters. The 155-pound ranks consist of UFC lightweight champion Anthony Pettis, former UFC and WEC lightweight champion Benson Henderson (No. 1), former Strikeforce lightweight champion Gilbert Melendez (No. 2), Ultimate Fighter 5 winner Nate Diaz (No. 5) and Donald Cerrone (No. 8), respectively.
Nevertheless, Dariush made it clear that the depth of the lightweight division is of no consequence and that his desire to achieve immeasurable heights within the sport remain unparalleled. He stated:
When it comes to martial arts, I always feel hungry…Staying hungry and never being satisfied is how you always improve…If you’re in the UFC, your goal should be to become champion…Just because you have the belt doesn’t mean that you achieve greatness. I want to be remembered in the sport as the greatest fighter of all time…My goal is greatness.
Dariush has established a track record of achieving tremendous feats, and plans on becoming a force to be reckoned with as he moves up the UFC’s heavily-stacked lightweight division.
(Beneil Dariush Defeats Gilberto dos Santos via TKO at High Fight Rock 2 on his way to the UFC)
*All quotes were given directly to Bleacher Report, unless otherwise noted.