'Fight Island' lands fourth title bout as Deiveson Figueiredo, Joe Benavidez meet for flyweight belt

Kevin Iole
Combat columnist
Deiveson Figueiredo (R) punches Joseph Benavidez on February 29 in Norfolk, Virginia. They will rematch on July 18 in Abu Dhabi for the UFC flyweight championship. (Photo by Josh Hedges/Getty Images)

The UFC recognizes eight titles in men’s weight classes, and now half of them are going to be defended on ‘Fight Island,’ after president Dana White announced Thursday that the rematch between No. 1 Deiveson Figueiredo and No. 2 Joseph Benavidez will be for the vacant flyweight title in the main event of a Fight Night card on July 25 in Abu Dhabi.

That comes on the heels of UFC 251, which is a week earlier on Fight Island, that will be headlined by three title fights. The main event of that show is a welterweight title match between champion Kamaru Usman and Gilbert Burns. Champion Alexander Volkanovski and former champ Max Holloway will rematch for the featherweight belt in the co-main, while the vacant bantamweight title will go to the winner of the Petr Yan-Jose Aldo match.

Figueiredo knocked out Benavidez in the second round of what was supposed to be a title fight on Feb. 29 in Norfolk, Virginia. But he missed weight by two-and-a-half pounds and so the match was a non-title fight.

Benavidez said that Figueiredo missing weight played a big factor in the bout, as did a head butt that the referee didn’t see. That, he said, essentially ended the fight for him.

He has come close to winning the world title before. He lost extremely close decisions to Dominick Cruz in a WEC bantamweight title fight and to Demetrious Johnson in a UFC flyweight title bout. He also beat Henry Cejudo, who would go on to defeat Johnson and become the champion.

Benavidez has never held a belt but believes he’s been the best in his class at certain times in the past.

“It’s really weird, but being the best in the world is a fleeting thing, because you have to do it on the day the title fight is held,” Benavidez told Yahoo Sports. “I believe I was the best on any given day over the last 10 years in two different weight classes. But on the day that I had to prove it, it was out of my grasp for whatever reason.

“Fighting is such a crazy sport and anything can happen, but doing what I’ve done has given me the confidence and belief that I am good enough to be called the best in the world.”

He said the weight issues were bigger than people realize. He gradually cut his weight during camp so he’d make the 125-pound limit safely. But he said Figueiredo didn’t do the same and was far bigger on fight night. He said he believed Figueiredo had a 15-pound weight advantage on him when they stopped into the cage.

“Missing weight doesn’t come down to a one-pound or a two-pound difference, whatever people talk about,” Benavidez said. “It’s a lot more than that. He was walking around so big and was undisciplined for weeks before that. To get to the weight we’re going to like we’re supposed to professionally that day, it takes weeks of transforming your body. If you don’t do that and you’re not putting in the work to start transforming your body, that’s when you start missing weight.

“For him, it wasn’t the one or two pounds. It was him walking around at 150 the week before, therefore probably going into the cage at 150. Me, knowing I had to get to 125 safely, I was walking around at about 140. So when we got into the cage, he had something like a 15-pound advantage, which is three weight classes.”

The co-main event on July 18 is an important middleweight bout between No. 6 Jack “The Joker” Hermansson and No. 7 Kelvin Gastelum.

The main event on the last show on Fight Island on July 25 pits former middleweight champion Robert Whittaker against Darren Till. Former light heavyweight title challenger Alexander Gustafsson will come out of retirement and move to heavyweight to take on former champion Fabricio Werdum in the co-main that night.

The UFC previously announced a featherweight bout between Calvin Kattar and Dan Ige would headline the July 15 show in Abu Dhabi.

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