As seems to happen every so often for a fighter, fate and circumstance have merged to provide UFC bantamweight TJ Dillashaw with a golden opportunity.
On Thursday night Dillashaw was tapped as the opponent of choice for Renan Barao and his May 24th, UFC 173, title defense in Las Vegas.
As fans know, Barao is stepping in to defend his 135 pound title as a replacement match for the originally scheduled Chris Weidman vs. Lyoto Machida main card event. Sadly, the Weidman vs. Machida middleweight title fight had to be pulled from the card when Weidman went down with a knee injury late last week.
Originally the fight had been offered to the number three Raphael Assuncao. However, the fighter turned the match down as he’s still recovering from a rib injury that he sustained at UFC 170 in late February.
In lieu of Assuncao, the promotion has seen fit to give the title challenge match to number five ranked Dillashaw. Dillashaw was set to fight the number seven ranked Takeya Mizugaki on the same 173 card, however, he now unexpectedly finds himself fighting in the main event and for the title. It’s all quite remarkable turn of events when considering that the main card event started out a Chris Weidman vs. Vitor Belfort. Truly fate and circumstance have conspired in Dillashaw’s favor.
Expectedly, the news of his good fortune came as a complete shock to the “Team Alpha Male” fighter. When his manager called and gave him the news Dillashaw said he “lost it.” As he said in an interview with MMAMania.com, he knows his “dreams are about to come true.”
Dillashaw says that it hasn’t all sunk in yet, but regardless, he’s looking forward to being the first “TAM” member to claim a belt for the team. More particularly, he’s looking forward to culling the championship for his coach, Duane Ludwig.
"I just couldn't sleep at all; everything was going through my head about how things are going to change. In my mind, I am going to be the new UFC champion of the world. I get chills being the one who has a chance to bring that belt back to Sacramento and Team Alpha Male, under Duane Ludwig. Duane is my coach and it works out perfect that he is going to be able to leave with a title under his belt."
As to whether or not he’ll be able to beat Barao, it’s anyone’s guess. Barao is undefeated in the UFC, 39 – 1 – 1 professionally, hasn’t lost since 2005 (his first fight) and never been stopped. In short, Dillashaw, with a 5 – 2 record in the brand and 9 – 2 professionally, will have his work cut out for him in Las Vegas. However, he has a ton of enthusiasm and self-confidence on his side, as well as a great team behind him. For all anyone knows Dillashaw might shock the world on May 24th and topple Barao from his throne. Odds will surely be against it, but perhaps Dillashaw has the fortitude to prove those odds wrong.