If you’re not first tough A UFC No. 2 must keep improving. In the world of fighting, a dominating champion is like a king. Respect is heaped on from all quarters, sometimes with admiration and sometimes with reluctance.
Each time the champion enters the Octagon, fans wait anxiously to see whether history is about to be made. The crowd, even the most finicky of supporters, looks on in admiration. Then there is the allure of the up-and-coming underdog that everyone is rooting for.
Everyone here is looking forward to the potential of a shakeup in the established order of things. Not even if the underdog narrative ends up being more smoke than fire makes a difference. The climb up the mountain is still one of our favorites because of the view.
What About the Boxer Who’s So Close to The Top
But what about the boxer who gets so close to the top of his weight class, and then remains there indefinitely?
Athletes who consistently outperform everyone in their class except the champion throughout an extended period the perennial No. 2 or, in the case of mixed martial arts, the No. 1 contender are often overlooked.
There are (and always have been) a few of them in every sport. More than anybody else in the history of the sport, Joseph Benavidez is a perfect fit. As UFC men’s flyweight champion Demetrious Johnson held onto his title for six years, Benavidez was always a close second.
Benavidez had a 15-fight winning streak from 2010 to 2018, with his only defeats coming at the hands of “Mighty Mouse” twice. One of those losses was a split decision for the UFC’s first 125-pound championship.
That makes him the Greatest of All Time (GOAT) of runners-up, which may seem condescending until you realize there is no shame in consistently beating out everyone in the world except for the greatest MMA fighter of all time.
Benavidez argued for a third chance against Johnson by telling the media, “People claim I lost twice,” after his 2016 victory over future two-division champion Henry Cejudo.
But I feel like a million fights between myself, and Demetrious would be amazing matches between two world-class fighters.
Despite Benavidez’s unfinished trilogy
Even though Benavidez never got to complete his trilogy with “Mighty Mouse,” he was finally given his due credit after retiring from boxing a year ago.
“Even if he never became a champion, still a fantastic career,” Johnson said on MMA Junkie Radio soon after Benavidez’s statement. People will look back on his bouts and realize how great he was.
There may not be a greater representation of a perpetual No. 2 in today’s UFC than a female flyweight competing this weekend. For almost three years, UFC contender Katlyn Chookagian has trailed champion Valentina Shevchenko in the organization’s rankings.
She originally accepted that position in September 2019, and although she momentarily fell from that position after a failed challenge to Shevchenko in February 2019, she quickly recovered and has since stayed No. 2 at 125 pounds.
There have been 54 weeks when Chookagian has been the UFC’s number two contender, just behind the champion. However, the 33-year-old is not yet pleased with herself. On Saturday at UFC 280, Chookagian (18-4) will meet another top-10 flyweight Manon Fiorot (9-1).
“It’s an exciting situation to be in,” Chookagian told ESPN. “Some people could say, “Wow, that’s a huge success.” You have held this position for an exceptionally long time. In contrast, given who I am, I can only think in terms of “If you’re not in the first place, you’re in last place.”
I never considered joining the UFC as a means to an end. My whole life, I have dreamed of becoming the best. This means that the workload will increase. The task must go on.”
Chookagian’s trainer says that she has a “fighter’s mentality,” meaning that she is always looking to improve as an MMA fighter. Mark Henry, who also coaches Frankie Edgar, one of the sport’s most famous lunch-bucket workers, has called her “one of the toughest workers I know.”
The finest kind of flattery for Chookagian is to be mentioned in the same breath as Edgar. “He’s been my inspiration from the very beginning,” she remarked.
“He was already a champion, but I remember seeing him in the gym long before I had my first amateur mixed martial arts bout. Unquestionably a positive force to be around.” In turn, Edgar acknowledges the gesture of support but directs it toward another member of the squad.
Katlyn’s Consistency May Prolong Her Top-Player Career
She claims that I am her source of motivation, but in the ten years they have spent working out together, he is only seen her put in the extra effort. I believe that Katlyn’s longevity at the top of her game may be attributed to her reliability.
When it comes to continuing to be a formidable opponent, Edgar is an expert. After losing the UFC lightweight title in 2012, he remained in the division for a while at both the featherweight and bantamweight levels, albeit always just outside the top spot.
And Henry sees a connection between what Edgar has been doing for what seems like forever (he has fought in the UFC since 2007 and will conclude his career at UFC 281 at Madison Square Garden next month) and what Chookagian is doing now.
“Katlyn was right there in the gym when Frankie was competing in three classes and continued to be a top contender for years,” stated Henry.
So, when it was her time, she was prepared. If Chookagian wins on Saturday, it would be her fifth consecutive win, all of which have come against ranked opponents.
It seems to set Chookagian up for another shot against Shevchenko, but nothing is certain, particularly for a fighter who could go unnoticed on this weekend’s packed show.
Two championship fights, four current or former champions, and a dozen competitors ranked by ESPN in their respective division’s highlight UFC 280. There are a total of five matches, including Chookagian vs. Fiorot, that have two or more competitors ranked in the top ten.
Two Women Who Let Their Conflicts Speak May Reconcile
Two ladies who let their fights do the talking may be able to pass undetected. Chookagian said wistfully, “I really, truly wish I was skilled at talking rubbish because I believe it would help progress my profession.”
“And yet, that’s not who I am. Given that I fall short in certain areas, it follows that I must excel in some other area. When it comes to winning, I shine.” A fighter’s star power may not automatically increase if they win, but even victory is no guarantee.
Together with Shevchenko, Chookagian holds the record for the most victories by a female flyweight fighter in UFC history with nine.
Moreover, half of the champion’s victories at 125 pounds have ended in a knockout, but all nine of Chookagian’s triumphs have gone the full distance.
For the record, Chookagian has more decision victories than any other woman in UFC history, with a total of four (two at bantamweight and two at strawweight).
Not exactly a record to strive for. Henry agreed, saying, “Yeah, decisions aren’t what the UFC is looking for.” “Fans like seeing knockouts because it provides entertainment. But even if you do not have Katlyn’s formidable rivals, winning is no easy feat on its own.
She has been one of the most dominating fighters in the world, facing only the best competition.” Her friend on the squad thinks it is not an exaggeration. Edgar said, “Katlyn is the finest female fighter, bar none, except Valentina.”
She has often shown this. To remove the “not named Valentina” qualifier, Chookagian must repeat her performance on Saturday.