It's no secret that there are a current shortage of compelling contenders to challenge for T.J. Dillashaw's UFC bantamweight title. Injuries have sidelined the two most obvious choices, Dominick Cruz, the former champion, and Raphael Assuncao, the last man to beat Dillashaw. Their absences ultimately paved the way for another rematch against Renan Barao to booked for April 25 at UFC 186, but before that contract was inked, UFC officials tried their hand at a little creative matchmaking.
In a joint interview on Monday's edition of The MMA Hour, Dillashaw's mentor, Urijah Faber, and former UFC lightweight champion, Frankie Edgar, both confirmed that they were recently broached with the idea of fighting for the 135-pound title.
"I did have a weird conversation with Dana White, where he called me after they already said I was fighting Assuncao (at UFN 62), and said, ‘What if I was to tell you that we want you to fight T.J. in April instead of Assuncao?'" Faber revealed. "And I was like, ‘Agh, man, that puts me in a hard spot. I think I'd rather just keep my fight with Assuncao.'"
Faber's reluctance to fight Dillashaw is nothing new. The 35-year-old stalwart of the lighter weight divisions is the one who first helped discover and mold Dillashaw into the champion he currently is at Sacramento's Team Alpha Male camp, and both teacher and student have continually expressed reservations about setting aside their friendship for a marquee fight.
"That's like the first time I've ever turned down a fight," said Faber, who instead meets Edgar on May 16. "So being at 145 and fighting the number-one contender -- a lot of people thought Frankie was neck-and-neck with Aldo and he's been doing what it takes to be there -- so a win over Frankie, that puts me right there. I'm not shying away from any fights. I feel like right now is the time for me to do superfights, and there's big fights out there for me. I think Frankie is one, I think Conor (McGregor) is one, I think (Dominick) Cruz is one, and we'll see who else pops up in the mix."
As for Edgar, the 33-year-old New Jersey native revealed that his name was briefly thrown into the Dillashaw discussion, however the conversations happened prior to Conor McGregor's Jan. 18 fight against Dennis Siver, and Edgar was loath to commit to such a drastic move before seeing how the featherweight title picture shook out.
"It was kind of in the air," Edgar said. "I didn't really talk to anybody, maybe (my manager) Ali (Abdel-Aziz) did, but it was more of like, before the McGregor and Siver fight. So I wasn't making any decisions until after that fight anyway, because obviously I thought it was going to come down to me and McGregor and you never know what can happen in a fight, so I kinda wanted to wait until after that fight. But it seemed like they made up their mind and they already booked Barao vs. TJ before that fight even happened."