LAS VEGAS — The story has already been told ad nauseam over the last year plus.
T.J. Dillashaw left Team Alpha Male in 2015 and his former teammates were not happy about how the whole thing went down. That includes Cody Garbrandt, the new UFC bantamweight champion, who will defend his title for the first time in July against — that’s right — Dillashaw.
First, though, the drama will only intensify. The two men are coaching against one another on The Ultimate Fighter 25, which premieres April 19 on FS1. Garbrandt’s coaching staff on TUF includes Dillashaw’s former friends and current Team Alpha Male coaches Justin Buchholz and Danny Castillo. Dillashaw’s coaching staff has Duane Ludwig, the former Alpha Male head coach, who left on poor terms with team patriarch Urijah Faber.
The whole thing has the feel of a civil war, pitting former friends and teammates against one another. At one time, they all shared the same gym and a camaraderie.
With all that being said, Dillashaw does not believe Garbrandt should have any ill will toward him for leaving Team Alpha Male.
“Cody should have no involvement in this at all,” Dillashaw said Wednesday at the TUF 25 media day. “He was coming in, I was on my way out, for the most part. We were never friends. It wasn’t like I did anything to dishonor him or whatever. I think it’s more Urijah pumping these guys up and continuing to push this trash and build this team, which is money in his pocket. Every guy that fights from there pays him. I think it’s him being the mastermind behind this whole thing.”
Dillashaw (14-3), the former bantamweight champion, is most disappointed in Castillo and Buchholz, two people he considered close friends for six or seven years. He said he has spoken to them behind the scenes during TUF, but there is still hostility.
“You think you make friendships for a lifetime and they seemed to turn pretty quick,” Dillashaw said. “You’re disappointed with certain people. I wasn’t always close with everyone. I wasn’t ever really friends with Garbrandt. We weren’t really that close. But guys like Justin Buchholz, the head coach, he was always in my corner. Danny Castillo. Guys like that. You really kind of lose a lot of respect for how they’re acting and their friendship you thought you had.”
Dillashaw, 31, said the few weeks taping the show have made him feel like he made the correct decision in leaving Team Alpha Male for Elevation Fight Team, because of how Garbrandt and the other coaches are acting. He believes the series will show those on the outside the truth of what happened between both sides.
“I think they’re trying to hype themselves up,” Dillashaw said of Castillo and Buchholz. “Justin put himself through the hype machine of being the best coach ever. He’s gonna be behind his fighter and do what he needs to do. Maybe when it’s all done and said, we’ll see. But I’ve lost a lot of respect for those guys. They’re showing their true colors throughout this whole thing. It’s gonna be a tough one to forgive them.”
Garbrandt has been an “ass” during filming, Dillashaw said, and it seems like there have already been multiple altercations between the two coaching staffs. Dillashaw believes it’s important for him to at least attempt to stay above the fray.
“I gotta stay cool, calm and collected,” Dillashaw said. “Really, [Garbrandt is] just gonna make himself look like an ass. He’s looking so hard for a fight. He goes out of his way to be a dick, really. He has to choose which one — either be a nice guy or be a complete jerk. He’s like hot headed. He’s not smart enough to put some sentences together to try to tell you what you’re doing, rather he’ll just try to fight you. It gets aggravating and annoying. Just gotta keep your cool and stay professional. I’m a professional athlete. I got hired to do this job as a coach and I’m gonna hold myself this way, lead by example.”
Over the last few months, Garbrandt has spoken about knocking Dillashaw out in practice and Buchholz has said he has the incident on video. Dillashaw has told them to post it, but he believes it never happened and no video exists.
Either way, Dillashaw said, he knows the truth of what happened in the gym between him and Garbrandt and he believes he consistently came out on top.
“They can post the video of whatever happened in a split second, but we all know know how the majority of practices went down,” Dillashaw said. “I know how I feel and I know that I’m the better fighter and I was the one putting it on him the majority of the time. Everyone’s got their days, but I’m by far the better fighter in that room.”
Dillashaw said he’s happy to prove that in the Octagon and win his belt back in July. Before that, though, the TUF 25 season could give him the vindication he is looking for in his feud with Team Alpha Male, where from a fan’s perspective, Dillashaw has been painted as the one who did wrong.
“I could make my point, I could tell the truth,” Dillashaw said of his thoughts when considering coaching on TUF. “True colors will be revealed. … I think it’s gonna be a great thing.”