Sometimes just a look and a pause says everything that needed saying. TJ Dillashaw’s relationship with his former Alpha Male teammates has been rocky over the past few years, but following Joseph Benavidez’s own decision to leave the Sacramento based gym behind it seemed the two men still had some room for a friendship beyond the fallout between Duane Ludwig and Urijah Faber.
Benavidez has even spent some time training out in Denver at Team Elevation himself, as he’s bounced around with his recent fight camps. However, when TSN Sport’s Aaron Bronsteter asked him about his relationship with the bantamweight champion ahead of Benavidez’s fight at UFC Brooklyn – where Dillashaw will be fighting in the main event – he didn’t exactly get a warm reaction from Joe-B.
VIDEO: Joe Benavidez on his "compromised" friendship with TJ Dillashaw pic.twitter.com/cbf8YfZl0r— Aaron Bronsteter (@aaronbronsteter) January 17, 2019
“Eh... I mean, we were really good friends and really close,” Benavidez said, choosing his words carefully. “I mean, things are a little compromised now. It’s easy to say you’re a friend and this guy’s a friend and this guy is a friend of mine, but it’s more like, to act like a friend. You know what I mean? Kinda like actions and words and stuff like that. I wouldn’t say he acts like the best friend, but we have a history and we go back. And there is friends that are just like, ‘Alright, well...’ Get annoyed by each other for a while. So, I guess he was never a good friend, but we were teammates and we’ve gone through a ton together. So, I think that brings you close.
“But other than that? I think some of the stuff he said, like, about the division and stuff? That’s when I was kinda, like, questioning it. Like, that’s cool, you’re really going down and doing something for yourself by getting two belts. That’s amazing. TJ has an amazing drive and he’s where he’s at because of that drive. But you also have friends – me and other people included – in the division you’re saying you want to shut down. So that was more when I started to question it.
“Him dropping down and all that stuff?” Benavidez concluded. “Didn’t make me question the friendship at all. It was just, like, I would never stop someone from achieving their goals. But, trying to go out and take the things away from people while doing it is kinda like, ‘Oh, well...” That made me question our friendship.”
Dillashaw will fight Henry Cejudo for the flyweight title in the main event of the UFC’s first Fight Night card in partnership with ESPN. In the buildup to the fight, Dillashaw has made it clear that he sees himself as on a mission to close down the 125 lb division.
“The UFC wants to get rid of the division and they hired me to go down and close it and get another belt in the process. It’s win-win for me,” Dillashaw said back in November.
It’s a stance he’s essentially reiterated since, declaring that he “doesn’t care” what happens to the flyweights and that this is a “selfish sport.” The UFC, for their part, seem to be backing him up. Having cut numerous flyweight fighters since releasing former title holder Demetrious Johnson to go to Singapore’s ONE Championship promotion.
Interestingly for Benavidez, ahead of his bout with Dustin Ortiz this Saturday, he signed a new four-fight contract with the UFC, at 125 lbs. That may mean that his place with the promotion is safe for now. Or it could just be that the UFC is hoping to push him back to 135 lbs as they whittle away the flyweights around him.