T.J. Dillashaw didn’t hide his ambitions in the aftermath of his title win at UFC 217.
Dillashaw took his shot in both his in-cage interview and post-fight press conference, calling out UFC flyweight champion Demetrious Johnson for a rare champion vs. champion superfight down at 125 pounds. And while “Mighty Mouse” has largely stayed silent on the matter since UFC 217, Dillashaw reiterated this week that the matchup is one he “absolutely” intends to continue to pursue.
“Why not? This fight makes sense,” Dillashaw explained Monday on The MMA Hour.
“He doesn’t have anybody and this thing should’ve happened in August. He wants a big money fight. He wants to prove that he’s the pound-for-pound king. This is the step. I can make the weight. I wanted to stop him from breaking the record and he wanted to break it first, so he got that out of the way, he got to do what he wanted to do and he beat the record books. But now it’s time to man up and get this fight going. This is a fight that fans want to see. I keep hearing them say it and everyone’s loving it, so let’s get this done. There’s no reason to be scared now, you got to break the record.”
Dillashaw, 31, first challenged Johnson this past summer after Cody Garbrandt withdrew from UFC 213’s main event with a back injury. UFC president Dana White publicly lobbied for the fight, however Johnson demurred, citing various grievances with the UFC and Dillashaw’s lack of experience in the flyweight division. Johnson instead ended up defending his 125-pound title against Ray Borg at UFC 216, where he broke Anderson Silva’s record for consecutive UFC title defenses with a spectacular suplex-to-armbar submission over Borg.
But now Dillashaw is once again the UFC bantamweight champion, and the allure of Johnson vs. Dillashaw is higher than ever before. And Dillashaw said Johnson addressed the matchup with him over the weekend.
“He came by when I was taking photos with the belt (at UFC 217) and he said that I did the first step,” Dillashaw said. “So in my mind, that’s him saying, ‘Let’s get this on.’ I did the first step, because he said to the media that I wasn’t worthy of a title shot, that I needed to be a champion, that he wasn’t going to fight me because I wasn’t a champion. And he came by and said that I did the first step, so I think in his mind too, this is the fight that makes sense.”
In anticipation of the potential bout, Dillashaw said he expects the drop down to 125 pounds to be “a cool little process.” Dillashaw noted that he was already down to 140 pounds and “very healthy” with nine weeks left during his camp for Garbrandt, so he is confident about his ability to cut the extra weight.
And if given the chance, Dillashaw hopes to do what Conor McGregor never did with his own dual title run: Defend belts in two UFC divisions simultaneously.
“He’s never defended a title. I have,” Dillashaw said of McGregor. “He’s never defended a belt ever. I’m not one of those guys. I’m one of those guys who’s a hard worker. I’m in the gym nonstop, I’m always in shape, so I’m willing to do what it takes. If they’ll let me defend both (titles), I will. It’s something that, I’m willing to work. I want to prove there’s a way to be a champion and this is the way to do it.”
As for what Dillashaw’s ambitions could mean for the UFC bantamweight division, the two-time champion admitted that he isn’t concerned.
Dominick Cruz’s reluctance to give Dillashaw an immediate rematch after their contentious Jan. 2016 title bout, which Cruz won via split decision, forced Dillashaw to wait nearly two years before getting another shot at UFC gold. Now, Cruz finds himself in a similar position — his UFC 219 fight between he and Jimmie Rivera was expected to determine the division’s next No. 1 contender before Cruz was forced to withdraw due to a broken arm. But regardless, Dillashaw isn’t eager to do Cruz any favors at the expense of his own best interests.
“Cruz can suck it, man,” Dillashaw said. “He’s the one who made me wait forever. He knew he should’ve given me that rematch. He was scared. He thought he was cherry-picking by picking Cody. He was trying to hold onto that belt, get as much as he could. So if it’s up to me, he can wait. He can wait as long as I did. I couldn’t care less. I mean, I do want to beat that guy. I do want to smash because I know that I can, but I don’t care what he says. I’m going for the fight that makes the most sense for me right now, and that’s Demetrious Johnson, and I’ll do whatever it takes to get it.”
That being said, considering everything that has happened since the summer, Dillashaw admitted that he still isn’t “100 percent confident” Johnson will accept the fight.
“He was scared the first time, so I’d imagine he’s still scared now too,” Dillashaw said. “I respect Demetrious Johnson. I respect him as a human being. He always acts like a professional, he’s a nice guy, but that still doesn’t mean that I can’t say that he’s scared to fight me. I do respect him, I respect his choices and he’s got an awesome little family and stuff, but it’s time to man up. This isn’t about liking or disliking me. This is about the fight that needs to happen.”