With Frankie Edgar vs. Pedro Munhoz being pushed back to UFC 252 next month, Ryan Benoit got something of a gift ahead of his fight with Tim Elliott at UFC Fight Island 1 this Wednesday.
The pair have been moved to the co-main event. A first for the career of Benoit (10-6), who has been with the promotion since 2013.
“It feels great. It’s definitely a pretty big upgrade,” he told Cageside Press of the promotion. “I was thinking, it was the second fight on the card originally and now I’m the second of last fight on the card, so pretty honored man. Definitely not something I expected at all, but I’m ready.”
Being ready means getting ready weeks in advance, and with a pandemic raging that is no easy feet. Benoit, like many, got his training in where he could. Including in some “secret” training sessions.
“At first I was training at home and doing a secret training sessions with the gym being closed. And trying to sneak in there without getting caught. And then I was able to actually do my camp in New York City,” he revealed. “Again, secret training sessions. I’m probably not supposed to be saying that.”
While the cat’s out of the bag now, Benoit is far from the first fighter to admit to such measures. Something he also acknowledged. “I think everybody’s been doing the same thing also.”
At first, Benoit admitted, camp “was a little bit rough, because that’s [New York] where the Coronavirus had kind of hit the hardest. And then it kind of spiked in Dallas [where Benoit fights out of] at the same time, but I was able to get some training partners together and we were able to pull together a pretty good camp.”
After missing weight two fights back and trying his hand at bantamweight, Benoit is back to flyweight for the Elliott fight. Having made weight successfully Tuesday morning, the next stop is Fight Night. Which will unfold in an empty arena on Yas Island in Abu Dhabi, which has been dubbed “Fight Island” for four UFC events running throughout July.
Benoit expects the semi-deserted venue (UFC staff, judges, and the like will still be present) to feel “a bit like a sparring session,” in that “I could hear, you know, my sparring opponents, coaches yelling out, you know, advice against me or vice versa. And hearing my coach is pretty clear. I’m kind of like a video game sometimes to where my coach will tell me to do something and I’ll pull the trigger like right away. Yeah, I’m excited, man. I’ve never had that experience before. I’ve never dealt with that, and we’ll see how it goes. I feel like it’s gonna go well, though.”
Watch the full UFC Fight Island 1 virtual media day interview with Ryan Benoit above.