MMA-Holes: TJ Dillashaw

Publish Date
Friday, 23 July 2021, 8:34AM
Getty Images

Getty Images

With no major MMA events this weekend, ACC UFC resident expert Felix Heath-Collins decided to debut a new segment called 'MMA-Holes'.

This weekend's UFC Fight Night is headlined by a hotly anticipated bout between the universally loved human highlight reel Cory "Sandman" Sandhagen and the universally hated drug cheat TJ Dillashaw.

The main event this weekend is between a fan-favourite with a violent highlight reel in Cory "Sandman" Sandhagen (14-2) (wins-losses) and the disgraced former bantamweight champion TJ Dillashaw (16-4), who's an extremely skilled asshole. An MMA-hole, if you will.

Let's see understand why MMA fans consider Dillashaw a 'heel', or somebody that people tune in to root against, as opposed to a 'face' like Sandhagen that people tune in to root for. Either way, people are watching.

After debuting in 2012 Dillashaw rose through the bantamweight ranks before upsetting then-champion Renan Barao in a title bout.

A few defences of his title later and Dillashaw faced the returning (from chronic injuries) former bantamweight champion Dominick "The Dominator" Cruz (23-3).

Cruz's unique and supremely advanced footwork, cage control (ring generalmanship in boxing terminology), and fluid kickboxing combinations won him a decision victory, along with Dillashaw's bantamweight belt.

A few rebound wins later, on the same card as Dillashaw at UFC 207 in 2016, TJ's former teammate at Alpha Male Cody "No Love" Garbrandt (12-4) bested the champion, Dominick Cruz, via unanimous decision to win the coveted bantamweight championship crown.

This was a particularly fortuitous turn for Dillashaw as he now had a legitimate reason for a title contention fight considering that he was not only a fresh match-up for the new champion in Garbrandt, but they already had an organic rivalry because of Dillashaw's abruptly leaving team Alpha Male to train exclusively with his head coach (and former fighter) Dwayne "Bang" Ludwig.

With an organic rivalry built into the match-up, the UFC quickly booked TJ Dillashaw to face the new champion and his old friend Cody "No Love" Garbrandt. That fight ended up being one of the most exciting and technical wars in MMA history, at least at bantamweight. Dillashaw was rocked and dropped early in the fight, only to recover and TKO Garbrandt in the second round, earning Dillashaw his belt back. An immediate rematch between the two followed, which featured a near repeat of the first fight with Dillashaw being dropped early in the first round, only for him to rally and TKO Garbrandt, while this time he did it by the end of the first round, a new PB!

Not only had TJ Dillashaw regained his title, but he had essentially frozen out the former champion. The second-best in the world at bantamweight Cody Garbrandt would now need an impressive string of victories to earn a trilogy match since he had lost the first two fights via TKO.

Once again Dillashaw was on top of the world, and once again he would fall. But this time he would fall further than ever before.

Now with his bantamweight belt back, Dillashaw began another feud. This time it was with the flyweight champion at the time, the Olympic gold medalist wrestler Henry "The Messenger" Cejudo (16-2). At the time the UFC president Dana White had, in his infinite wisdom, threatened to close the flyweight division and many fighters at that weight were rightly panicking.

So, with the UFC's apparent backing, Dillashaw attempted to cut down to flyweight to finish the division, stating in an interview prior to the fight that the fight is "a win-win... (The UFC is) paying me a f*ck-load of money to move down and kill the 125-pound division and collect a second belt. So, it's game time."

Dana only seemed to confirm everybody's suspicions about the division being on its' deathbed, and many flyweights were cut, left for rival promotions, or moved up to the bantamweight division (Sergio Pettis - Anthony "Showtime" Pettis's younger brother - moved up a division before leaving for the UFC's rival Bellator, where he has recently earned their bantamweight championship).

TJ Dillashaw was looking to become the second-ever two-division UFC champion (after Conor McGregor did at UFC 205), while Henry Cejudo was looking to defend his championship belt and his division.

By the time weigh-ins rolled around and both athletes had to be weighed for the athletic commission (before bulking back up for fight night a day or two later), Dillashaw looked more like Skeletor.

While the ten-pound difference in weight class between bantamweight and flyweight might not seem like much, at 135 pounds (61.2 kgs) for bantamweight compared to 125 pounds (56.7 kgs) for flyweight that's a near 8-per cent drop in total weight, which would be massive for a finely-tuned athlete like Dillashaw.

But nobody was forcing Dillashaw to cut the weight, nobody really cared about him fighting Cejudo at flyweight, and many fans and analysts alike expected the Cejudo vs. Dillashaw fight to take place at bantamweight, with Cejudo being much more capable of going up than Dillashaw down.

So, what was Dillashaw's solution to the gruelling weight-cut he would need to endure to make the lightest male division?

He would cheat.

Nobody was surprised to learn that Dillashaw had used PEDs (Performance Enhancing Drugs) to cut the weight down to flyweight, but the real debate rages on as to whether he was cheating earlier in his career (maybe even from the start), or if, as he claims, he only used EPO that one time.

After all the rivalry, all the build-up, and the detestable cheating, TJ ended up being humiliatingly TKO'd by the gold-medalist wrestler Cejudo's unexpectedly improved striking skills only 32 seconds into the fight. He then stuck around to sulk about the completely justified stoppage and beg for a rematch at bantamweight (or "bantamweights" as he calls the division).

In complete disagreement that Dillashaw only cheated for that one fight, his long-time training partner turned rival Cody "No Love" Garbrandt stated that Dillashaw's "been on EPO for years, wouldn't be half the fighter he was with out it!"

While an arch-nemesis like Cody "No Love" would surely say that to discredit TJ Dillashaw, if anybody were to know about Dillashaw's drug use it could very likely have been a teammate and training partner like Garbrandt.

After testing positive for EPO in the Cejudo loss Dillashaw was suspended for two years by the drug-testing body USADA (United States Anti-Doping Agency) and was subsequently stripped of his bantamweight belt. That was in January of 2019, and so he became eligible to fight again in January of this year.

And the best part of all is that a couple of months after receiving his two-year MMA suspension, TJ Dillashaw opened a juice bar in Southern California called "Clean Juice".

The real question is whether the cup labels were already printed or whether the legal documents were already filled prior to his being found juicing because that is one unfortunate name for a convicted PED cheat's juice bar.

UFC Fight Night: Sandhagen vs. Dillashaw beings with a preliminary card at 8:00 AM this Sunday for us here in New Zealand, with the main card starting at 11:00 AM. In the main event, the violent anti-hero Cory "Sandman" Sandhagen looks to finish the former two-time bantamweight champion and juicing enthusiast TJ "Clean Juice" Dillashaw.




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