The long-simmering resentment between Team Alpha Male and the first fighter from the gym ever to wear UFC gold, T.J. Dillashaw, has reached another level.
Last month, Urijah Faber, the founder of the famed Sacramento gym, and current UFC bantamweight champion Cody Garbrandt leveled accusations that Dillashaw, who left TAM in a bitter dispute two years ago, would cheap shot other fighters in the gym when he was part of the team.
Garbrandt went so far as to blame Dillashaw for the concussion issues which have derailed the promising career of TUF 18 winner Chris Holdsworth. Garbrandt claimed Dillashaw kneed Holdsworth in the back of the head after Holdsworth submitted him in practice.
On Monday’s edition of The MMA Hour, though, Dillashaw, who meets Garbrandt in a highly anticipated matchup at UFC 217, categorically denied the notion he’s responsible for Holdsworth’s unfortunate circumstances.
“They said I got submitted by Chris Holdsworth, and then I kneed him in the back of the head while he was grounded and after the round, whatever it may be,” Dillashaw said. “So you’re telling me I’m kneeing people in the back of the head in between rounds and ruining their careers, but you want me to stay on your team? You’re not going to kick me off the team, you led the fight for me to stay on the team and you’re angry that I left. How does that make any sense whatsoever? If I’m a loose cannon like that, how would that make any sense whatsoever, how would you be angry at me? if that was the case, if I was doing those kind of things, I should be kicked off the team. Instantly. There’s no way that would be something that is acceptable.”
Dilashaw did fess up to the notion that he can be aggressive in sparring, but takes offense to the notion he deliberately crossed the line with a cheap shot.
“Have I been overly aggressive in some sparring sessions? Yes, I have,” Dillashaw said. “There’s things, there’s punches and things I’ve thrown that’s been too aggressive and I’ve gotten to where I’ve had to tell myself, yeah, I shouldn’t have done that, kind of thing. But I’ve never blatantly ever deliberately kneed someone in the back of the head and tried to end their career. I’ve gotten too aggressive in sparring, which we all have.”
Dillashaw said such high-energy sparring was a part of the Team Alpha Male culture from the moment he arrived.
“I got thrown into the lion’s den when I got to Alpha Male,” Dillashaw said. “My first sparring session was with Joe Benavidez, Chad Mendes and those guys, just bleeding from my face, its not like they took it easy on me. It was one of those things where we sparred 3-4 days a week, and we got thrown in there and that’s what made me as tough as I am.”
Back-and-forth swipes in the media between Dillashaw and his former teammates are nothing new, and are likely to continue right up until the moment the duo step into the cage at Madison Square Garden on Nov. 4. Garbrandt has stated that one of the differences between himself and Dillashaw is that Garbrandt is a “fighter,” while Dillashaw is an “athlete.”
Dillashaw, for his part, welcomes such a comparison, and says he’ll rely on that difference in athleticism to regain the belt he lost to Dominick Cruz in Jan. 2016.
“I find that hilarious because it’s actually more of a compliment,” Dillashaw said. “I’d rather be an athlete than a fighter, an athlete is going to go there and figure out the ways to win, see the holes in the game. I treat myself more as an athlete instead of as a fighter. As a fighter, you’re going out there as a street thug, relying on your hands, trying to knock someone out, being overly aggressive. Whatever it may it be, I’m going to go out there as an athlete and pick him apart using that.
“He’s very athletic, he’s quick, he’s got some great athletic attributes,” Dillashaw continued. “I think maybe his downfall is that he’s more of a fighter. He could be more of an athlete, I just don’t know if he’s smart enough to be that way.”