With TJ Dillashaw deciding to venture beyond his home of the last six years at Team Alpha Male in Sacramento for the Elevation Fight Team in Denver, there’s been no shortage of raised eyebrows.
One of those who has expressed disapproval over the UFC bantamweight champion’s decision was no other than his longtime teammate Urijah Faber, who opened up about his feelings last week on Stud Show Radio. Faber talked about how he was informed, and pointed out that Dillashaw — whom he said he wished the best for — would no longer be welcome at the gym.
On Monday, Dillashaw appeared on The MMA Hour and gave his version of events. He said he didn’t anticipate things blowing up the way they when he told Faber of his decision.
"I thought Urijah took it a little bit harder than I thought he would take it," he told Ariel Helwani. "I thought he was going to understand my position and understand where I’m at and kind of feel that he put me in this position."
Asked to elaborate, Dillashaw talked about the complex predicament he found himself in stretched between Faber and Team Alpha Male’s former coach, Duane Ludwig.
"I kind of wanted to talk about the position I’d been put in," he said. "I’ve been stuck in between Urijah and Duane Ludwig for this last camp, going back and forth for my training camp and they kept bickering at each other and making it tough on me. I mean, he brought a coach into Team Alpha Male for the last two years of my career that I learned to believe in and I learned to love and I learned to trust with my career. And then a bunch of drama happens and I’m having to choose where I go and who I want to train with. Am I not supposed to train with a coach that I put all my faith into and helped me win a world title.
"I believe if you go back and look at my fights over the last two years and see how my kickboxing has developed, I mean, I owe all that to Duane. It’s a very, very tough situation to be put in."
Though Ludwig is based in the Denver area, he is not a coach at the Elevation Fight Team. Dillashaw will primarily train with the crew there, and continue to work with Ludwig — who has a good relationship with Leister Bowling and others on the coaching staff — on the side.
The acrimony between Faber and Ludwig had been going on even before Ludwig left to open his own gym in Colorado. Dillashaw was caught in the middle of the feud, which reached a new level when Faber aired his grievances on Ludwig on a recent edition of The MMA Hour.
With alliances to both sides, Dillashaw said splitting his training camp for his big fight with former champion Dominick Cruz in January between two gyms was too difficult to pull off. Especially given the feud between Faber and Ludwig.
"My plan was, I told Urijah, look man, I’ve got a big fight coming up, I’ve got to do what I believe is best for me to ready for this fight and that’s doing my whole camp in Colorado," he said. "You know, I split it half-and-half in this last camp and it was really tough. It was hard to do, going back and forth. I felt, with the team I have out there, with the coaches I have out there, I felt more comfortable spending my camp out there.
"And he took it pretty hard. I was actually forced out of the gym. I’m not allowed to work out at Alpha Male anymore because of that decision I made. I live in Sacramento, and I’ve lived in Sacramento for the last six years. I’ve been putting in a lot of work here and helping the guys out as much as possible…I mean, shoot, I teach kickboxing classes here on Mondays and Thursdays. That’s just not really going to fly with me when I get into camp. It’s tough for someone to understand, I’ve put my heart and soul into this team as much as I possibly can [and] to kick me out of the gym. I’m not allowed to show my face at Alpha Male, which is kind of crazy to me."
Asked how he was handling being banned from the gym he has all his associations with, the 29-year old Dillashaw said it’s been hard.
"One day at a time, I don’t know — it’s tough," he said. "Super tough. Just knowing that I made the right decisions and I’ve got a big fight coming up and that’s the most important thing. I made this decision to train somewhere else and, like I said, I didn’t think it was going to be as blown up and as ridiculous as it is now.
"But it’s real tough man, especially when I’m best friends with these guys. Not only is it training partners and guys I want to do well in their careers, but guys that I love hang around every single day. So it’s a super-tough thing going on."
Dillashaw’s new training partners at the Elevation Fight Team will include established UFC fighters such as Brandon Thatch, Neil Magny, with fellow newcomers such as Matt Brown and Clay Guida also joining.
As for whether him and Faber would continue being friends going forward, Dillashaw said he hoped that would be the case.
"I’m just trying to look past all this and understand that maybe his feelings are hurt," Dillashaw said. "But he kind of put me on blast when he put me on that podcast. I’m trying to be the bigger man and not to bring up any negativity of what he’s doing in Sacramento, because it would be very easy to do so…especially with him putting me on blast on Stud Show Radio when I went in and just talked about the positives in Sacramento and the positives of me moving camps. And then he got on there and talked a little crap and, you know, threw me under the bus.
"I don’t want to be that guy. I want to keep my relationship going with him and the only way to do that is to look past it. I understand that his feelings are hurt, but I feel he should understand it just like everyone else on the team.
"I want to continue the relationship with him, I want to continue to be his friend, so I’m just going to be the bigger man."