Ultimate Fighting Championship bantamweight ace T.J. Dillashaw was a recent guest on the “MMA Hour” with Ariel Helwani and talked about how he found himself in frantic negotiations to save the UFC 223 card after the main event between Max Holloway and Frankie Edgar was cancelled due to an injury the Hawaiian sustained while training.
Dillashaw was asked to step in to rematch former teammate Cody Garbrandt, but it never happened as negotiations broke down. Dillashaw provided his thoughts on what transpired.
“They just kinda wanted me to save the card, and unfortunately I wasn’t able to,” Dillashaw said Monday on The MMA Hour. “I’m dealing with some injuries that I was trying to keep quiet, but they kept hammering on me and hammering on me to take this fight. But I just wasn’t healthy. It’s not only to take a fight on four weeks’ notice, but also being injured and I haven’t been training and (recently) having a kid put a wrench in that whole thing too.
“It was a no-brainer, man. I mean, they kept trying to ask me to do it, but yeah, it was a no-brainer. I just knew it wasn’t the time.
“They thought I was, like, maybe holding back for more money or whatever it is,” Dillashaw added. “But it just came down to not being healthy.”
Early this month, Garbrandt told Helwani that he was under the impression the fight on March 3 was a done deal and that part of the contract negotiations from Dillashaw’s management stipulated that he would be given an immediate rematch if he was beaten by Garbrandt. He then accused Dillashaw of being “Dwayne [Ludwig’s] puppet” and that he has “nailed the excuses.”
While Dillashaw is happy to fight Garbrandt again, he doesn’t think he deserves an immediate rematch considering the way the fight ended between them last time -- a second-round knockout. The 32-year-old continued:
“It’s about this being a legitimate sport and doing it the right way,” Dillashaw said. “Tell me one other champion who never defended his belt and got an immediate rematch. He never once ever defended his belt -- it wasn’t like he was a long-reigning champion or that he got robbed or whatever. There’s never ever been another champion that’s done it, so why are we making this precedent for Cody to get a rematch when he’s never defended his belt and then got knocked out? Like, how does that make sense whatsoever? So really, all I’ve got to do is state the facts.
“This is a sport. Get back in line. It took me two years to get a title shot off a split-decision loss to Dominick Cruz that the UFC told me they thought I won. It took me two years to get back to that case. Like, I worked my way back. I beat two No. 1 contenders to get there. It’s a sport, you’ve got to push hard and you’ve got to get after it. You can’t complain, you can’t be a sore loser and all this shoulda, coulda, woulda stuff.
“So it’s a little frustrating, but easy to put behind you. Let him continue to talk, be myself, and the more he talks, the dumber he looks, and more people will continue to realize it.”
Dillashaw is recovering from injury and is currently deep into negotiations with the UFC about a potential super fight against Demetrious Johnson. “Mighty Mouse” is the No. 1 ranked pound-for-pound fighter in the world and now holds the UFC’s record for most title defenses with 11.
While Dillashaw has strong dislike for Garbrandt, the lure of beating the best in Johnson is just too good of a chance to pass up.
“That’s my goal,” Dillashaw said. “I haven’t really heard much in the sense of [it being official]. They’re just telling me to get healthy, so obviously I’ve been doing some physical therapy and working on getting healthy and staying ready, and yeah, continuing to watch my body [composition], staying low (in weight) if this thing really happens. They know I want it. Demetrious wants it. He’s talking about how he wants to be on a big card; there’s a perfectly big card for it now coming up in July. They got Stipe (Miocic) and (Daniel) Cormier (headlining UFC 226), so all of the stars seem to be aligning. It’s just all about getting it done now.”
Dillashaw called the Johnson fight a “win-win” for every party involved: Johnson gets his highest-profile challenger to date, Dillashaw gets his chance at history, and the UFC nets a second highly-anticipated champion vs. champion fight to slot underneath Miocic vs. Cormier on July 7 at UFC 226 for this year’s International Fight Week.
Dillashaw talked about if he was to beat “Mighty Mouse,” he’d be game to move between the 125-pound and 135-pound weights to defend the belt when required.
“I feel good about it,” Dillashaw said. “The reason why I’m so shredded at 135 is because I’m a professional athlete. I do everything the correct way. I put weight on to lose it. So I’ll do the exact same thing -- I’ll just train my body differently. I’m already doing that. I’m not going too crazy because nothing’s official and I don’t want to get myself too low and have to worry about coming back up, but I’m normally waking up at 154 pounds in the morning when I’m fighting at 135. As of now, I’m waking up at 147. I’m lean and in shape.
“(I’m dealing with) some injuries, but other than that, I feel great about it. It’s something that, when I was told the first time I was fighting Demetrious, like I said, I was waking up at 140 pounds. That’s only a little cut for me, so I’m feeling great about it. I’m a small ‘35er as is. I don’t cut much weight to make 135. Like I said, I put the weight on to cut it, so it’s something that I’m excited to do. I’m excited to see the transformation. What it really comes down to is that I believe I’m the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world, and to do that, I need to beat the best. And I can make his weight class.”