TJ Dillashaw: Next Match
Is he fighting his former teammate, Cody Garbrandt, for the bantamweight crown or dropping to flyweight to face Demetrious Johnson for the strap?
Does he know? Does he care? Does he just want a title or does he want to get paid?
Is it really his choice? If so, should it be?
So many questions, so many left unanswered…let’s have a look at what the future holds for TJ Dillashaw.
Things were all set, a grudge match for the ages between two former teammates, one the new champion, one the previous division king…let’s be honest Garbrandt v Dillashaw for the bantamweight belt was every MMA fans very own Christmas in July. Then, it happened again. It seemed an injury was going to take it from us. Another mouth-watering clash put on the shelf.
When Garbrandt announced that he was headed to Germany to seek treatment for his back injury forcing him out of a title defense against his former fellow Alpha Male fighter and rival TUF 25 coach at UFC 215, who could have guessed the rollercoaster it would take us on.
Suddenly word was TJ was headed down to 125-pounds, not to start a climb to the title but to challenge the champ immediately.
As appealing as a DJ v TJ bout is, I always had a few issues with it.
Firstly, I am a bit over this era of non-champs, actually, any fighters in general, saying they deserve this and deserve that, especially when going up or down in weight. I have a simple belief…fight in a division, put together a winning streak of some merit over some top ten ranked guys and wait for your shot at the champ.
DJ himself summed it up by saying, “There are other challengers in the division with more wins and on a winning streak. This is not a super-fight because TJ is not a champion. He’s just a 135er coming down to 125 to skip the line that other flyweight competitors have worked hard to climb”
TJ obviously disagreed, “It’s not like I’m coming down and skipping the line. There’s not really a line to be had. Borg’s got two wins in a row right now and neither of the guys are in the top 10.”
The only way I felt TJ’s move to flyweight for a title shot would feel justified was for him to come down and take on the number one contender as a quasi-title eliminator. This would prove three things; he could make 125 pounds; he could be as effective at a lighter weight and that he is the legitimate number one challenger to DJ’s crown.
TJ stated, “I’ve never missed weight since I was eight-years-old. I’m telling you I’m going to make the weight and I’m not going to miss it. So really all of his excuses are easily countered by just accepting this fight. They’re just excuses to have him not tell the truth, which is he’s scared to fight me.”
There is no argument that, if not indisposed with an ACL injury, Joseph Benavidez is undoubtedly the number one contender to the DJ’s belt and he would have been a true test for TJ to prove himself effective at 125.
Benavidez has lost to only two men in his career, both on two occasions, one being former multiple time bantamweight champ and Dillashaw's conquer, Dominic Cruz in the now-defunct WEC and 'Mighty Mouse'.
Sure, he got KO'd by Johnson last time they met but that was way back in December 2013 following a needle-thin decision loss in the inaugural flyweight title stout 15 months prior. He is presently on a six-fight winning streak is without question the #2 guy at 125.
The thought of a Benavidez v TJ at flyweight number one contender fight actually really appealed and also made business sense with many surely keen to pay to see both former Alpha Male stable fighters go at it. I suppose it wasn’t meant to be.
Ultimately I wouldn't of minded seeing Dillashaw at flyweight fighting for the title against Johnson, but here’s where I had a problem with the situation. If TJ came down to fight DJ and he wins the title, then what…back to bantamweight to try and do a ‘MacGregor’ and hold two titles simultaneously? You can pretty much guarantee he isn't sticking around at 125 long-term.
Alternatively, he loses to Johnson and goes straight back up the 135 to fight Garbrandt for the belt, what has he really done apart from stalling the division by jumping ahead of established flyweights, whether it be DJ’s challenger elect Ray Borg, or someone else, from getting his shot.
With Benavidez out for an undetermined period and DJ not interested in taking on TJ the only top ten flyweights without a fight booked at present are Jussier Formiga and Ben Nguyen. Both decent fighters in their own respect but is anyone really excited to see TJ get in the cage with either? I didn’t think so.
Dillashaw has said, “Nothing else makes sense to me why he wouldn’t take the fight other than creating these excuses for him not having to say that he’s scared to fight me because he doesn’t want to lose his belt.”
UFC President, Dana White, was quoted as saying it was ’insanity’ for DJ not to fight TJ. I think what is really insane is the disrespect that has been shown to the current pound for pound best in the business. Surely Demetrious Johnson should have some say on who he fights next, especially considering the significance of his next bout.
Others have come out and said if DJ doesn’t take on TJ to break Anderson Silva’s ten consecutive title fight defenses record then it ruins the legacy, are you kidding me? Go back and look at some of the names in Silva’s streak, not all exactly household names.
Dillashaw himself said if Johnson sidesteps this fight, he has no doubt that there will be an asterisk that will be attached to his career from now.
“I respect Demetrious Johnson as a person, I like him, I like his wife, I like him but by him acting this way and turning down the fight, he’s really tarnishing his career and reputation in my eyes.”
What really irked me in all this is that throughout his career, Dillashaw has always taken the high road even when past opponents have gotten personal, so I was more than a little surprised and frustrated when TJ himself took to Twitter to try and bait DJ into bypassing Borg and giving him the title shot.
“Mini Mouse or Mighty Mouse? Don’t be scared! This is the fight game. I’ve taken title fights on 24hrs notice. I’m already waking up at 143lbs.”
He didn’t stop there either, letting Johnson really know what he thought of it all in a number of interviews that followed.
“You want to call yourself the greatest of all time and a challenge steps up for you to fight and you’re doing whatever you possibly can to avoid the fight, you’re looking like a cry baby really in my eyes.”
“All the other excuses about him being bullied into the fight, not making enough money, not getting promoted, that all gets squashed if he fights me. It’s just not happening because he’s too scared to take the fight. It’s a scary fight for him. I feel like he’s putting a bad name on his career.”
This is no way to treat the champion and I truly wonder if regrets any of this when he looks back on it.
I do like TJ, he is great to watch and always brings it. His display when winning the title from Renan Barao is still one of the most dominant ever performances by a challenger in title fight history. He defended the belt by taking out Joe Soto, demolished Barao in the rematch before losing the title in a very close split decision against Cruz.
My real questions for TJ that I want answered is these; did he want to go down to fight DJ because he saw it as a genuine super-fight that the fans wanted; did he want to challenge himself against the current #1 pound for pound fighter in the game; was the potential money through PPV dollars against DJ a factor or did he just not want to sit out whilst Garbrandt and his bantamweight belt were unavailable.
As recently as the last 24 hours it finally seems wiser heads have prevailed and TJ has given up on heading down in weight, instead deciding to stay at 135 and wait for Cody Garbrandt to be fit and healthy and fight for the title…thank god!
Whether the weight cut was too much, whether he realized the DJ fight just wasn’t going to happen and he didn’t want to have to take another fight at flyweight to prove he deserved the chance at the title…whatever it may be the rollercoaster now seems to be leveling out and slowing down so us fight fans can jump on board and see two fights we really want to see.
Garbrandt v Dillashaw in a bantamweight grudge match for the belt at bantamweight and DJ attempt to break the record for consecutive title defenses against an established, deserving flyweight!
To find out more about TJ himself, whether a flyweight stint is still in his future and if he can give us any timeline on his bout with Garbrandt subscribe to the UFC Channel on PADLOKT.com today to talk with TJ live via video (or watch live via live stream) on June 26 @ 7 PM PDT where TJ Dillashaw will answer all your questions.
Whether you agree or disagree with my take on the situation or you just want to congratulate TJ and his wife Rebecca on the announcement of their first baby being due in late December, this is an opportunity you don’t want to miss.
Jimmy. R. Nugent