First, Cody Garbrandt said he wanted to fight T.J. Dillashaw. Then, the new UFC bantamweight champion said a rematch with Dominick Cruz was the best route. Later still, the Team Alpha Male fighter angled for matchups with featherweight title claimant Jose Aldo and lightweight champion Conor McGregor, and went so far as to say Dillashaw doesn’t draw pay-per-view buys.
This seeming constant change of plans has led Dillashaw, the former UFC bantamweight champ, to believe the Garbrandt doesn’t really want to fight him.
“It’s funny because, he called me out right after the fight, because he knows that’s who he should be fighting,” Dillashaw said on a recent edition of The MMA Hour. “But then in the press conference, he’ll talk about ‘oh, let’s get Cruz a rematch,’ and he says he wants to call out Aldo or McGregor? He knows he wants to do everything he can to avoid that fight. I’ve practiced with him a long time, he’s a good fighter, but he knows how tough that fight’s going to be.”
Indeed, UFC 207 was a ground-shifting night in the men’s 135-pound class. First, Dillashaw, who lost the title in a tight decision after five memorable rounds with Cruz back in January, stated his case with a thorough beatdown of John Lineker for his second straight win since losing the belt.
Afterwards, it was revealed Lineker suffered a broken jaw early in the fight, but still went the distance, to which Dillashaw could only shake his head in an odd sense of admiration.
“He’s a tough cat,” Dillashaw said. “I knew I landed a really good left head kick in the first round, and he just ate it. I knew he had a good chin from watching his fights, but to continue with a broken jaw, that’s pretty tough. It wasn’t like I wasn’t landing punches after that, either. I was trying to put him away. He’s a tough cat. I think that’s part of his downfall is he’s relying on his toughness instead of getting better.”
Afterwards, he delivered one of the more memorable postfight interviews of the year, laying out his case for what he believed would be a rematch with Cruz, saying the game would be “rigged” if he didn’t get the next title shot.
“I believe it,” Dillashaw said when asked if he still felt that way. “I feel like I’ve done what I need to do to get a title shot. It’s just what it comes down to. I’m just going to speak the truth, and if people like it or don’t it’s the truth. I feel like I should be getting it, and really I’m hyped up even worse because I believe that Cruz was hand selecting his fights, that he wasn’t fighting the No. 1 guys so for me to put that out there is for me to say not to let Cruz hand pick his fights and make sure the No. 1 guys are fighting.”
Of course, Cruz then went out and lost to Garbrandt, who has been the most outspoken among Team Alpha Male fighters about Dillashaw’s departure from the gym. And while Dillashaw doesn’t exactly consider Garbrandt his best friend, he’s willing to give him credit for his performance at UFC 207.
“I was impressed,” said Dillashaw, who said he congratulated Garbrandt backstage after the show. “I expected him to be emotional fighter, with just the way everything went down that week, I felt like Cruz was purposefully trying to get into his head, I guess I was giving him too much credited for being smarter than he was because Cruz was the one who came out and fought emotional. He looked slow, he was loading up on his punches and he didn’t mix things up very well. He was the one who fought emotional and Cody fought smart. He did a great job, I was impressed.”
Since then, Garbrandt hasn’t exactly returned the favor, as he’s come out and said he can’t make any money fighting Dillashaw. But Dillashaw doesn’t think it’s about the cash.
“He doesn’t want to fight me because he knows he’s not going to defend the belt, and he’ll never be the real champ,” Dillashaw said. “I’m going to come out and get it back, and he’s going to avoid it.”
Just don’t expect him to do a song and dance to get the shot.
“I’m not the flashy guy with the neck tattoos trash talking your head off,” Dillashaw said. “I’m confident, I’ve done what I’ve supposed to. I don’t see any way I can get passed up and if I do, it’s kind of crazy. Who else is out there and beat the No. 2 as decisively as I have and not got the title shot?”