Alan Jouban sympathizes with Beneil Dariush after he earned an eighth straight win at UFC 280, yet it’s Alexander Volkanovski who will almost certainly get the next shot at the lightweight title.
Despite a stellar record and recent victory over Mateusz Gamrot, Dariush is still waiting in line while Volkanovski is expected to move up from featherweight and fight Islam Makhachev, likely at UFC 284 in February.
That scenario might have played out regardless of the result in Dariush’s fight, but Jouban said the lightweight contender did himself no favors by refusing to call for the title shot.
“I was telling everyone, I was in Bristol at ESPN, Beneil was winning the fight and I go, ‘Beneil wins this fight, he had better take that hot mic and call out a title shot,’” Jouban said on The Fighter vs. The Writer. “It better not go to, ‘Thank you lord savior Jesus Christ, thank you to my coach, thank you to my wife,’ and it ended there. He does that, he’s shooting himself in the foot.
“Sure enough, he wins the fight and all he did was — and I don’t want religious people to get mad at me — but you know what I’m getting at. You thank god, and then you move on. You can’t make the whole thing about religion and family and whoever’s next I’m happy with it. No!
“If you want the title shot, you have to say I want that belt and I’m next in line, I’m on the same card. Whoever wins tonight between Islam and Oliveira, I’m next in line! You have to make a soundbite for the UFC to promote this fight. But if they have nothing to promote a possible matchup, how are they going to make that matchup? He shot himself in the foot.”
During his own career, Jouban rarely afforded himself the opportunity to call out opponents, which may have cost him the chance to truly pursue some marquee matchups. That’s why he offers Dariush the same advice he would have taken himself if he could go back and do it all over again.
“His name doesn’t jump to mind like ‘Beneil Dariush is killing it!’ unless you’re an enthusiast,” Jouban explained. “For the general fan base, they don’t know who Beneil is and if he would have said something it would have helped him.
“It bugs me because this is one of the things when young fighters ask me advice, this is the advice I give them because this is what I would have changed about me. I was always in war mode when I go into fights and then I’d get interviewed and I would be honest but I wouldn’t call for the shot. I wouldn’t take my personality and dial it up and say ‘I want a top five guy, I want to fight the champ!’ Even if it doesn’t make sense, even if you’re No. 15 and you’re calling for No. 1, it puts you in that conversation. It makes people think.”
To his credit, Dariush has always stayed genuine to his personality without attempting to goad opponents into fights by making outlandish statements for the sake of creating headlines.
Jouban understands that Dariush doesn’t want to seem disingenuous, but there are plenty of ways to call for a title shot without crossing a personal boundary with trash talk.
“Beneil deserves the shot,” Jouban said. “After taking out everyone that he’s taken out, he deserves the shot. Beneil needs a better PR team. Somebody behind him needs to get behind him. Because anybody who’s ever met Beneil will say the same thing — greatest dude ever. I’ve met him, I’ve rolled with him, such a down to Earth, likeable, cool [person]. He will roll with you, show you stuff while you’re training, a solid dude. He’s too nice. The fight game doesn’t like nice people.
“You have to demand something. You have to call something out. You have to make a soundbite. I wish Beneil would have done more to call his shot and make it enticing.”
Eventually, Jouban knows that time will catch up to Dariush and he may miss out on ever competing for gold in the UFC.
“Not only did he not call out the champ, he didn’t call out anyone above him or anyone at all,” Jouban said. “He didn’t make a single call out. He thanked the people who helped him and he walked away very humble. As much as I love Beneil, somebody has got to say look this is a business decision. If you make the right call out, we get the title fight.
“He’s got to change it. He’s going to do a Tony Ferguson where he fights all the way to the top and he has an off night and somebody beats him and then he’s all the way back down the ladder and never getting a shot again because he’s never going on a nine-fight win streak again. He’s got to make a smart decision now.”