Read the original articles from LA Times here.
Demetrious Johnson has so thoroughly cleaned out the UFC’s flyweight division, the best option remaining was a tournament-hardened free agent.
Former title challengers Henry Cejudo and Joseph Benavidez will coach the contenders beginning Wednesday night on Fox Sports 1’s “The Ultimate Fighter.”
The field of 16 fighters head toward a pre-recorded Nov. 30 television finale that will crown the champion who’ll fight Johnson on Dec. 3 in Las Vegas.
“Very professional, great, talented fighters,” Benavidez (24-4) said. “The exposure to the division … I think everyone is going to enjoy the [TUF finale] and it’s going to be very good for a division right now that is a little scarce on exposure and people wanting to see it. It’s going to be big for the division.”
After beating Benavidez for the belt in 2012 and making eight successful defenses, Johnson (24-2-1) was due to fight No. 6-ranked Wilson Reis in July in Atlanta.
Johnson suffered an injury and the bout was ultimately scrapped in favor of this unprecedented endeavor.
“Whoever gets the shot … people have been watching them on TV, following their story, following their journey,” Benavidez said. “Then, all of a sudden they are fighting Demetrious who, by himself, people want to [watch] because he is so dominant and they want to see what he’ll do next.
“How [the TUF winner] will improve [against] one of the best pound-for-pound fighters. That’s the whole reason we’re doing this show, because they thought [Johnson] didn’t have an opponent to get excited … I think this is the perfect deal.”
Benavidez said he attempted to pass on pointers about how to beat Johnson in his limited time with the fighters.
He realizes one of the TUF competitors may ultimately emerge as an opponent after Benavidez fights Cejudo on Dec. 3.
“I have the utmost confidence in my skills and what I can do, and my whole thing is like … more power to someone if they can go in there and execute and beat Demetrious and beat me,” Benavidez said.
Cejudo (10-1), the former Olympic wrestling gold medalist, was defeated by Johnson in his most recent bout – an April first-round knockout.
Cejudo said the vibe of the competitors is less green, more seasoned.
“It’s cool, man. It’s cool because you’re not baby-sitting. There’s drama, but not the petty drama you’ll normally see,” Cejudo said. “They’re all professionals.
“We’re going to be able to give them our two cents on how to defeat [Johnson]. But it’s tough. Styles make fights. Sometimes, it’s the individual — his belief, his style of fighting that may give Demetrious Johnson trouble.
“It’s going to be a matchup that’s really going to give D.J. trouble.”
Meanwhile, Cejudo has a fight with Benavidez coming.
“Actually … I didn’t like it. … This is part of reality TV. You have to see somebody, and you get tired of seeing them. But … that’s part of the game.”