Thursday is a big day for the Team Alpha Male camp.
Three top fighters from the Sacramento-based fight team will take to the blue mat of the WEC that evening, all looking for a win in their final appearance under the promotion’s banner.
“I actually like it when I have a teammate fighting on the card,” Team Alpha Male’s Joseph Benavidez told hosts Hector Castro and Pete Sumulong on Ground N Pound Radio on the MMA DieHards Radio Network. “It gives you a little more inspiration that your brothers, that you train with and sacrifice together, are going out there and doing the same thing.”
There are also some perks that come from a fight card stacked with teammates.
“We have more cornermen that we get to bring down,” Benavidez noted. “More guys that we get to have in the back. We basically have the whole dressing room to ourselves.”
The teammates who will make this all Alpha Male dressing room possible are headliner Urijah Faber, who fights Takeya Mizugaki, and Chad Mendes, who will take on Javier Vazquez. Besides inspiration and a dressing room full of familiar faces, there is a third benefit that the trio enjoys: a training camp with multiple elite athletes all seeking to peak at the same time.
“Chad and Urijah are my main training partners,” said Benavidez. “For all of us to have a fight in mind, have this tunnel vision and this focus that you only really get when you’re having a fight, it’s amazing.”
The trio of Alpha Male fighters will all face tough tests at the event.
For Benavidez, that test comes in the form of former International Fight League champion Wagnney Fabiano.
After reigning supreme among the featherweights of the now-defunct IFL, Fabiano has found mixed success in the WEC. He picked up two wins at featherweight to kick off his time in the WEC, but was then upset by Mackens Semerzier. The loss, coupled with the rise of his own teammate, Jose Aldo, prompted Fabiano to move to the bantamweight division, in which he has notched wins over Clint Godfrey and Frank Gomez.
“He hasn’t fought any elite bantamweights,” Benavidez proclaimed. “I’m looking forward to going out there and showing him what an elite bantamweight feels like, because I don’t think he’s looked that great at 135.”
Fabiano is a black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu, but that fact doesn’t really bother Benavidez.
“I think I’ve had my three best fights of my career against black belts – Jeff Curran, Rani Yahya and Miguel Torres,” he said on the show. “I eat black belts for breakfast.”
Benavidez’s main concern is Fabiano’s stifling top control and ability to hold opponents down. However, he doesn’t feel that Fabiano will be able to utilize that game plan against him.
“That’s a good matchup for me,” Benavidez said. “I’m like a greased pig out there. I don’t let anyone hold me down, and that’s what he has to do.”
“I’m like a greased pig without the grease, actually,” Benavidez clarified, not wanting to be taken literally.
While Benavidez is set to battle Fabiano, his teammates face challenges of their own.
The WEC’s poster boy, Faber, will be headlining the card against Mizugaki. The fight will be Faber’s first since dropping to 135 pounds, and Benavidez thinks bantamweight is the division Faber should have fought at all along.
“He feels amazing at 135,” Benavidez said. “He’s even faster and scrappier since he’s a little smaller, but he’s just as strong. It’s definitely the weight for him.”
Meanwhile, Mendes squares off with Vazquez. Mendes came into Team Alpha Male with great wrestling skills, but Benavidez notes that the rookie of the trio has refined his game and expanded his skill set.
“He’s like a little Mike Tyson out there,” Benavidez said of Mendes. “It’s scary how good Chad can really be.”
As all three men enter the cage, they know it will be the last time they set foot on that blue mat. The next time they go to war, it will be inside the UFC’s famous Octagon. The merger of the two Zuffa-owned organizations translates into a promising future for the guys in the lighter weight classes, but Benavidez will always have fond memories of his time with the WEC.
“WEC is definitely close to my heart,” he said. “WEC has changed my life. All these moments that I’ve gotten to experience in these last few years of my life, they would have never been possible without the WEC.
“I’ll always hold it close to my heart, but the future is also bright.”