TJ Dillashaw was able to win the UFC bantamweight title for the second time in his pro-MMA (mixed-martial-arts) career this past Saturday night in New York at Madison Square Garden at UFC 217 in the co-main event when he scored a second-round knockout of his former teammate Cody Garbrandt. The journey to this fight wasn’t all smooth sailing, to say the least.
The bad blood leading up to the fight forced him to overcome early danger when he suffered a knockdown in the closing seconds of round one. He ate a hard right hand from Garbrandt.
This led to Dillashaw quickly thinking and latched onto a desperation single-leg takedown attempt and avoided further damage until the horn. During a recent appearance on Ariel Helwani’s The MMA Hour, he reflected on the moment and revealed that he “definitely” was rocked by Garbrandt’s punch. He also had a little bit of help clearing out the cobwebs between rounds from his former Team Alpha Male teammates in Garbrandt’s corner.
“I walked back to the corner and I heard their cornermen being jerks, just like they’ve been the whole camp, saying they’ve got my number,” Dillashaw explained Monday on The MMA Hour. “‘We’ve got your f’ing number, Dillashaw! We’ve got your f’ing number!’ I heard that. As soon as I heard that, I turned back to my corner and was like, ‘Alright, let’s get our sh*t together.’
“I kinda hit my hands together, and I was like, ‘Alright, I’ve gotta change it up.’ So I sat down in the corner and just listened to (coach) Duane (Ludwig). He’s the one looking from the outside in. That’s why he’s in my corner, he’s got great eyes, and we changed up the tempo. We decided to come out for the second round a different fighter.”
The heat between Dillashaw and Team Alpha Male has been well documented in the past as the two sides have been warring publicly for years now. It all came about when Dillashaw decided to split with the Sacramento-based team in 2015 to continue learning until the tutelage of Ludwig. Dillashaw claims that the post-knockdown trash talk he heard from Garbrandt’s cornermen at UFC 217 was not an isolated incident.
“I could hear them talking sh*t the whole time, actually,” Dillashaw said. “Stuff like when I’d a leg kick or something, like, ‘You’re too slow! T.J., you’re too slow! All you’ve got is a right hook!’ All of this stuff, just trying to just continue, just continue to break me, you know?”
Dillashaw said that bad blood didn’t stop after the fight as that only one of his former coaches and teammates at Team Alpha Male approached him backstage once the dust had settled.
“In the back, the one guy who was willing to come up to me and shake my hand was (Team Alpha Male coach) Justin Buchholtz,” Dillashaw said. “All of the other guys still seemed pretty bitter. They put a lot on this. They put their whole legacy of Team Alpha Male behind Cody. They put a lot of pressure on that guy to live up to what they wanted him to be, and I didn’t feel like that was really fair to him either. But they put all of their eggs into Cody, and I smashed them. I smashed their dreams. I smashed who they were, and they’re all bitter about it.”
“To me, he was the same guy,” Dillashaw said. This sport, one of the things is you’ve got to very well-rounded, and I think that’s just something he doesn’t have. I think more people are going to take advantage of it. If he continues to fight, we’ll see more and more of that. He’s a really good athlete, he’s good at what he does, and the guys that he’s fought have played into his game. So I’m not saying he’s plateaued, but I just don’t think he has grown that much. He hasn’t showed me that he’s [gotten] better other than what he’s good at.”
Garbrandt continued his assault on Dillashaw at UFC 217’s post-fight press conference, by calling Dillashaw “a piece of sh*t teammate” and insisting that, “I’m still the better fighter in there and I’ll show that in the rematch.”
“I’m not one who looks for the drama,” Dillashaw said. “I’m not one who wants to hate on anybody. I didn’t leave because I hated anybody. I didn’t want all of this bullcrap. So yeah, I was hoping it would get squashed a little more than it was, and they’d be a little more mature about this whole thing and be professionals. I was hoping it was more about him hyping it up, but I guess that’s how he feels, so whatever, man. I’m not too worried about it. He’s going to have to fight. We have a very tough weight division.
“He will be around, but he’s going to have to have some tough fights to even get back to me, so who knows if I showed his weakness. You know, I don’t think he actually has a chin. Even Cruz hit him a couple of times and wobbled him, and Cruz is no power puncher. So I think if people aren’t that scared, he drops his hands — always dropping his hands, they’re real low. That’s why I caught him with a head kick. Every time he throws a punch, he drops his opposite hand. He gets away with being fast and having power, so I think he’s got a long road ahead of him.”