Dillashaw ended Garbrandt’s title reign with a thunderous flourish, knocking out his former teammate with a second-round salvo of punches to reclaim the UFC bantamweight title on Saturday night at UFC 217. Afterward, Garbrandt petitioned hard for a rematch, stating repeatedly at the event’s post-fight press conference that he still believed he was the superior fighter between the two bantamweights. But after being forced to take the long road back to the title, Dillashaw is now in the driver’s seat, and he isn’t concerned with what his rival feels is deserved.
“I just finished him in the second round. He doesn’t deserve a rematch,” Dillashaw said Saturday at the UFC 217 post-fight press conference. “He’s very new in this sport, he needs to work his way back up. I should’ve gotten a rematch after that (Dominick) Cruz fight (in Jan. 2016), a very close split decision that I thought I won, and I did not get it. It took me a year-and-a-half — well actually, almost two years — to get it. So yeah, I think he’s going to definitely (need to) build himself back up.”
Dillashaw, 31, overcame adversity in the fight against Garbrandt, surviving to the horn after getting dropped by a punch in the closing seconds of the first round. Dillashaw then repaid the favor midway through the second frame, crushing Garbrandt with a counter right hook before swarming and securing the championship finish.
The stunning result brought Dillashaw at least a temporary respite from the saga between he and Team Alpha Male that began in 2015, back when Dillashaw departed the Sacramento-based team to train with head coach Duane Ludwig in Denver, Colorado. In the time since that move, Dillashaw has been subject to all manners of insults and accusations from his former teammates at Team Alpha Male, with Garbrandt often leading the charge.
Garbrandt continued that theme on Saturday night, stating after the fight that he respected Dillashaw as a fighter but still had no respect for him as a person.
And for Dillashaw, the feeling is mutual.
“I respect him as a fighter as well,” Dillashaw said. “I do not appreciate, me or my family — as you can see, my brother got very emotional after the fight — have not appreciated the accusations and just the crap talk, and trying to diminish my name and who I am. So, that’s one that I won’t ever forgive him for. But I do respect him for being a great competitor and I’m sure we’ll see him again. But yeah, he’s lost a lot of my respect. He’s lost all of the respect from my family.”
The lingering resentment on both sides was plain to see in the immediate aftermath of the fight, as Garbrandt was caught by cameras on the UFC 217 broadcast getting into a heated shouting match with someone in Dillashaw’s corner following the knockout. Many viewers assumed that individual in question was Ludwig, however Dillashaw explained that it was actually his own brother.
“My brother’s in my corner, and like I said, he’s been very offended by some of the things and accusations, and the way that some of my really good friends — that I thought were — have treated me,” Dillashaw said. “And he’s an emotional guy. He loves me more than anybody I know, and he was just backing me. All he said was, ‘What?!’ And we know Cody’s a hot-head as well, and so he went after him, then he had to get escorted. Escorted from MSG — that’s another one to put on the bucket list, I guess.”
Dillashaw went on to say that the main lesson he learned from the Cruz fight — a fight which also featured plenty of trash talk — was the importance of staying focused and not allowing himself to get sucked into an emotional battle during a fight, and lesson was on full display against Garbrandt.
“This is professional for me. If I was going to get into it, like you’re saying, and be pumped about beating Cody, then I would’ve fought emotional,” Dillashaw said. “I would’ve been angry about fighting him. So I kept it at a professional level and knew that I was fighting to get back what I thought was rightfully mine. I mean, I don’t lose that split decision to Cruz or (Raphael) Assuncao, I’m on a 13-fight win streak. We’d be talking about me being the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world. And those are the things you’ve got to swallow, and just know that you’re chasing your dream.”
In the end, despite how long it may have taken him to land another shot at the belt, and despite how tiresome the process may have been, Dillashaw is once again the UFC bantamweight champion — and he already has a name in mind for his next fight.
Following his win, Dillashaw called out UFC flyweight champion and current pound-for-pound No. 1 Demetrious Johnson for a champion vs. champion superfight down at Johnson’s home of 125 pounds. Dillashaw acknowledged that he also has options at bantamweight, but those options are currently the farthest thing from his mind.
“We’ll see what happens with Dominick Cruz and (Jimmie) Rivera (at UFC 219),” Dillashaw said. “That’s a tough fight. I think Cruz has his hands full with that fight. But Demetrious can’t run from this one. This is too big. He broke his record. He got to pat himself (on the back) and break his record. Now let’s make some money. He’s talking about how he wants those seven-figure fights — well, this is it. Step up, be a man of your word, and let’s get this fight going. He’s a very cerebral fighter. He’s smart, him and his coach, because they know it’s a very tough fight against me.”