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T.J. Dillashaw on ‘a—hole’ gym reputation: ‘It’s got me to where I’m at’

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T.J. Dillashaw talks about his supposed notoriety as an unpleasant training partner.

Former UFC champion T.J. Dillashaw will return from a two-year layoff this weekend against Cory Sandhagen.
Former UFC champion T.J. Dillashaw will return from a two-year layoff this weekend against Cory Sandhagen.
Photo by Mike Stobe/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC

Word from within the confines of the Team Alpha Male gym is that T.J. Dillashaw wasn’t exactly a gracious training partner. Former teammates like Cody Garbrandt, Urijah Faber, and Chris Holdsworth have their anecdotes about how the ex-UFC champion would try to hurt people in the practice room.

Dillashaw did admit that he could get “overly aggressive” during sparring sessions. But for him, it’s all in a day’s work.

“I know I am. I was gonna admit to it, I’mma admit that I’m an… I don’t hide from it,” Dillashaw told Brendan Schaub in a recent episode of Showtime’s Food Truck Diaries. “Even, like, when we get home from practice ’til 1, like, ‘Sorry dude. I’m a f—ng dick. I went f—ng hard.’

“But that’s the way I do to get ready for a fight. I push every practice like it’s a fight, I’m super competitive in every motion. I’m gonna go to jiu-jitsu later tonight, I’mma try to strangle (my jiu-jitsu coach) Philipe (Della Monica).”

Dillashaw also attributed this specific approach to his success as a two-time 135-pound champion.

“All the guys at Gracie Barra laugh when I, like… maybe Philipe submitted me, and I’ll be, like, ‘F—k!’ I’ll get all pissed off,” he explained. “And everybody’s like, ‘Dude, Philipe’s supposed to submit you. He’s one of the best black belts ever in here.’ I don’t give a shit. I need to win always.

“And I think that’s how you push yourself to be at the top. At least that’s how I’ve done it to myself is that I don’t want to lose any situation, and that brings out the dick in you. You become an asshole.

“I wouldn’t say my wife is proud of that, the image of myself. And it’s not like I’m proud of it, but it’s got me to where I’m at.”

The 35-year-old Dillashaw will return from a two-year layoff this weekend against Cory Sandhagen. Many of his contemporaries would see this lengthy absence as a setback, but he looks at it as a blessing in disguise.

Dillashaw says he’s still chasing UFC gold, but at the same time, he’s already excited about his post-fight life.

“I’m actually looking forward to being done. I’m coming back, I’m getting my belt back, I got goals and shit like that. But to be honest, life after fighting’s great, if you do it the right way. Setting myself up right, being smart about it.”