On August 4th, T.J. Dillashaw will defend his UFC bantamweight title for the first time since reclaiming the belt last November. This title defense will be against his former teammate turned bitter rival Cody Garbrandt — the man he stopped to earn back the belt at UFC 217.
Though he’s eager to best Garbrandt again and confident that he’ll “ruin [Garbrandt’s] career at 135 lbs”, Dillashaw was hoping for a different opponent. It’s been no secret that the two time champ has been coveting the UFC’s flyweight title, held by perennial G.O.A.T candidate Demetrious Johnson.
Dillashaw had been campaigning for a fight with Johnson, at 125 lbs, almost as soon as he’d been crowned the UFC’s bantamweight king. Though little was said publicly about the fight by Johnson or his team, Dillashaw told Bloody Elbow that he thought the fight was set.
“I thought it was going to happen,” said Dillashaw. “As far as I was told we were going to fight in April and Demetrious Johnson accepted the fight.”
Dillashaw explained that he was delighted to hear the fight was happening. However, he did think April was a little early for the bout. He and his wife had a child in December and he wasn’t fully back to training when he was told about the fight.
“So I was like, ‘Oh shoot, this is definitely going to happen.’ I’d have loved to have it on a later date, but it is what it is,” remembered Dillashaw. “And then two days later Demetrious Johnson posted that he’s getting shoulder surgery, so I figured it was just getting delayed. I thought it would happen maybe the July 7th card or around International Fight Week. Since we had Cormier and Ortega going for belts themselves I thought it would be kind of perfect. And I think he never manned up and accepted it. Everyone knows that I wanted it. I can only chase someone for so long until you’re trying to bully him.”
Throughout his campaign to get a fight with ‘Mighty’ Dillashaw has never wavered on wanting to cut down to flyweight for the contest. There are multiple reasons why he has committed to this, he said.
“One: it’s a goal of mine, because I know that I can do it. I know that I’m a small 135er and 25 wouldn’t be that hard for me. And two: I don’t want any excuses why I beat Demetrius Johnson. I don’t want him saying, ‘Oh I was giving up the weight. I came up to 35.’ No man, I’m not that much bigger than you. I’ll come down to your weight class and I’ll beat you at your own weight class, I don’t want any excuses.”
On the July 7th card (UFC 226) Dillashaw, instead of getting a chance to be a two-weight champion, got to see Daniel Cormier achieve just that. DC surprised many by knocking out Stipe Miocic to clinch the UFC heavyweight championship title. By adding that belt to his collection he became only the second fighter to hold two UFC belts at the same time; the other being Conor McGregor. Cormier is also only the fifth fighter to hold title belts in separate divisions. He, along with McGregor, joined Randy Couture, B.J. Penn, and Georges St-Pierre in that exclusive club.
By winning the heavyweight crown, Cormier also solidified his candidacy as one of the greatest fighters ever in MMA history. Watching the plaudits roll in for Cormier has been a motivating experience for Dillashaw.
“Absolutely, it’s been motivating,” he said. “But that was already the thought, to [win two titles] and get that kind of attention. And I’m very happy for DC, though. He’s a great dude and it was awesome to see it happen for a great guy.”
To get a chance to match Cormier, and other legends of the sport, Dillashaw must first pass the test provided by Cody Garbrandt at UFC 227. Dillashaw said he recognizes this and that a fight with Johnson will have to be “put behind” him, for now.
“Obviously, it’s one of those things that I’ll still be chasing. If he ever steps up and wants it, we’ll see. But I have things to conquer right now. I have a legacy to uphold. So pretty much when you have another fight lined up you forget about that person and you just focus on getting better.”
T.J. Dillashaw vs. Cody Garbrandt for the UFC bantamweight title is the main event of UFC 227. The co-main pits Demetrious Johnson vs. Henry Cejudo for the flyweight belt. The pay-per-view kicks off at 10PM ET on August 4th.