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TJ Dillashaw on coaching TUF opposite TAM: ‘I really get to show the world some true colors’

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Former UFC bantamweight champion T.J. Dillashaw was far from the only person to leave Team Alpha Male over the past couple years. But out of all those who left Sacramento, from flyweight standout Joseph Benavidez to coaches Martin Kampmann and Duane Ludwig, Dillashaw caught the most flack for leaving Urijah Faber’s famed gym.

“I left when I had the belt, there was a lot of attention coming back on the team about it being kind of on a downward spiral,” Dillashaw said on Monday’s edition of the MMA Hour. “Coaches left, they couldn’t get another coach to stay, Kampmann moved back home, and so, I was the one coaching practices, and just kind of knew that I didn’t really need it for my career. So I feel like there was just some insecurity there.”

Dillashaw’s beef with TAM, now two years running, is back in the headlines with The Ultimate Fighter 25 playing out on FOX Sports 1. Dillashaw and Cody Garbrandt are coaching teams of fighters in a comeback season, which will culminate in Dllashaw challenging Garbrandt for the bantamweight belt at UFC 213 in Las Vegas.

And with the scrutiny comes fresh reminders of what went down. One of Team Alpha Male’s coaches, Justin Buchholz, has been vocal in criticizing Dillashaw. But the former champ noted that Buchholz was in his corner for his Jan. 2016 fight in Boston with Dominick Cruz, in which Cruz defeated Dillashaw in a narrow decision to claim the belt — and that this went down after Dillashaw left Team Alpha Male.

“He cornered me for my Cruz fight, when this all started,” Dillashaw said. “When I told Urijah I was going to do my full camp in Colorado. That’s when I got the ultimatum and left, and yeah, Buchholz continued to coach me. He was actually the one who told me I made the right decision, that me leaving was the best thing and that Faber was running that team into the ground and that what I did was the right thing to do.”

Dillashaw admits that when he got the call asking him to take the TUF coaching gig, he hesitated, not wanting to rehash all the drama that seemed close to dead and buried. But at the end of the day, he was confident his side of the story would shine through.

“I get to really show the world some true colors,” Dillashaw said. “I get to show, you know, what’s really been going down. And it’s kind of nice. I’ve always wanted to coach The Ultimate Fighter, I thought it would be something I’d really enjoy. But, when I got the call and they asked me to coach against Team Alpha Male and Cody Garbrandt, of course, there was a hesitant of thinking, like ‘damn, I don’t really want to deal with all this drama.’ I’ve done everything I possibly can to avoid this drama in my life and now I’m going to put it back in. So, it’s something I’ve been trying to avoid, but ultimately, I knew the best decision was to take the fight and take the show, and show people who I am, and tell my side of the story once again and be done with it.”

Showing up on the set nearly every day for six weeks and being side-by-side was a bit unnerving at first, but Dillashaw said he got around it by simply focusing on his own team’s needs.

“It was stressful, you know? It was definitely a stressful situation, but I feel like I handled it well.” he said. “I just kind of laughed it off, really. I just continue to be professional and give all my guys as much as I possibly could. I was there to be a coach, I really enjoy coaching, and I really was there to push my guys as far as I possibly could, but I felt like the other team was there to try to make themselves look cool and try to make me look as bad as possible, so, I think the thing about it was just that I stayed level-headed and kept to my business for the most part.”

Dillashaw’s final concern was how he’d be portrayed in the fast-and-loose version of the truth often provided by reality TV. Through the early episodes, at least, he has no complaints.

“When I was on the show, you’re always worried about how you’re going to come off, and so far it’s been portrayed the way it’s really gone down, you know?” Dillashaw said. “So, I mean, there was so much drama and so much going on with the show that they didn’t have to add anything or add a storyline, because it was already there. The drama and the storyline of me and Team Alpha Male and them so worried about me and my life was already there, you know? Their insecurities and them being worried about me created the plotline for The Ultimate Fighter, so, it’s gone the way it went down.”