Beneil Dariush might be one of the brightest prospects in the UFC lightweight division and he has plenty of great examples to look at in his home gym as inspiration to reach the top of the sport.
Dariush trains at Kings MMA in southern California where they recently added two UFC championships with Rafael dos Anjos winning the lightweight belt and Fabricio Werdum capturing the heavyweight gold.
It's a rare moment for a gym to welcome home a UFC title, much less two of them, although Dariush admits he's getting a little jealous.
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"It's been annoying! Everybody comes in with their belt and they're just hanging out and they're like 'you want to hold it?' and I'm like 'no I don't want to hold it, I want my own belt!'," Dariush said with a laugh when speaking to FOX Sports. "But seriously, it's been so cool.
"Seeing Rafael (dos Anjos) and Fabricio (Werdum), these guys are the team leaders in my opinion. They're the guys everybody looks up to so seeing them get the title and seeing them in the gym and seeing the hard work they put in and the fruit of it, it's been pretty amazing. It motivates us."
The interesting part about this dynamic in the gym is Dariush quietly climbing the ranks at 155 pounds, which puts him in pursuit of the title currently owned by his friend and teammate.
Dariush and dos Anjos have become incredible sparring partners as well where they push each other to the limit in any and all training sessions, acting as vital parts to one another's success. That's where the title talk starts and stops according to Dariush.
While he wants nothing more than to win UFC gold, Dariush will never face his teammate to get there and would rather move weight classes and pursue a title at welterweight rather than fight dos Anjos.
"We talked about it, about the whole 155 division so he said well look at first Master Rafael (Cordeiro) said that I'll be looking to move up to 170 and that'll be my next goal after this fight looking for 170 and then Rafael dos Anjos talked to me and he said 'you know what let's see how it goes, I'm a lot heavier than you so maybe I'll go to 170'," Dariush revealed.
"So basically at this moment we're not completely sure where we're going, but we know for sure we're not fighting each other."
The hardest part about that scenario is the work Dariush has done lately in the lightweight division with four wins in a row and a chance to tackle a top five opponent this weekend as he faces Michael Johnson at UFC Fight Night: Teixeira vs. Saint Preux in Nashville.
Dariush isn't concerned about the consequences because he can still go for a title at welterweight if that's what he has to do, but what he's not going to sacrifice his friendship with dos Anjos for 12 pounds of gold.
"Yeah if the team and I decide that it's best for me to move up to 170, then yeah I'll go to 170," Dariush said. "I really don't know how the UFC will look at that but for me my goal isn't a title, my goal is greatness. I want to be one of the greatest in this sport so for me to chase a title, that's one thing, but for a title to chase me, that's even better."
Greatness, according to Dariush, goes beyond title belts especially when looking at some of the best fighters of all time who never wore championship gold.
He points specifically at top ranked lightweight contender Donald 'Cowboy' Cerrone for his willingness to always step up and ability to win some of the biggest fights in the weight class. Dariush also takes a subtle swipe at Cerrone never winning a title because his next matchup is against his teammate dos Anjos later this year.
"For example Donald Cerrone, he'll go down as one of the best lightweights ever, he never had a title. There's a lot of guys who maybe never get to the title but they show that they're great. Now I'm not saying I'm not going to get a title -- cause I can tell you now I'll have a title whether at 170 or 155, it just depends," Dariush said.
"But there's more to this sport than the title. I think everybody knows that."
Make sure to catch Dariush in the co-main event of UFC Fight Night: Teixeira vs. Saint Preux with our viewing and schedule guide.