UFC bantamweight champion TJ Dillashaw last week confirmed that he would be joining the Elevation Fight Team in Colorado, starting with his upcoming camp for a fight with Dominick Cruz at UFC Fight Night 81 in January.
The fallout from his decision has led to a fast and furious disruption to his relationship with friend and Team Alpha Male leader Urijah Faber.
Although his move to Elevation is full-time in nature, Dillashaw had initially intended on returning to his Team Alpha Male family from time to time to work out with his longtime buddies. But Faber immediately squashed those plans, saying Dillashaw was not welcome to train at Alpha Male as long as he continue with his plan to join Elevation.
The relationship goes back a long way. Faber recruited Dillashaw out of college to join Alpha Male and the two became fast friends. Dillashaw eventually captured the UFC title that Faber tried for, but was never able to secure.
Even though the two had appeared to be on a collision course, both denied wanting to fight each other. Now that Dillashaw is on the outs with Faber, it may have opened the door for such a fight to eventually occur, although Dillashaw is still reeling from Faber’s reaction to him wanting to make a move to solidify his standing as UFC champion.
“I thought it was going to (go over) a little bit easier,” Dillashaw said on Monday’s edition of The MMA Hour. “You really find out who people are when you’ve got to make these kinds of decisions. I thought guys on the team, everyone actually did take it that way, but I feel that Urijah took it a little bit harder than I thought he would.
“He took it pretty hard and I was actually forced out of the gym. I’m not allowed to work out at Alpha Male anymore because of the decision I made.”
Faber certainly didn’t seem to understand Dillashaw’s decision. At the least, he didn’t respect it.
“He made a big-boy decision,” Faber said on Thursday’s Stud Show Radio podcast. “He walked away from the family that brought him up, the guys who were a big part of his success.
“He wants to walk away from the team. That doesn’t mean you get to come in here and help coach the guys when he’s really going to be watching to see a little opening here or there.”
Prior to making the move, things had gotten fairly awkward for Dillashaw. He had spent a couple of years making vast improvements in his striking game due to working with then-Alpha-Male head coach Duane Ludwig, and eventually won the belt with Ludwig in his corner. But Ludwig and Faber eventually had a falling out and have spent the better part of the past year or so bickering with each other in a public feud.
Feeling he still needed to work with Ludwig, but feeling a strong sense of loyalty to Alpha Male, Dillashaw had been splitting his time between camps, not exactly the most efficient way to train for fights.
Having trained with Elevation Fight Team in the past and with the team’s expansion plans that include the financial backing of sports nutrition company MusclePharm, Dillashaw decided the time was right to move to Colorado and train with that team full-time, where he would also be near Ludwig.
“I kind of feel (Faber) almost put me in this position,” Dillashaw explained. “I’ve been stuck in between Urijah and Duane Ludwig for this past camp. That makes it tough on me.
“I got a big fight coming up and that’s the most important thing. I made a decision to train somewhere else and I didn’t think it was going to blow up and be as ridiculous as it is now.”
At the end of the day, Dillashaw felt he had to make the move to keep his career on track. Cruz has been one of the more dominant fighters in history. He just hasn’t been able to remain healthy, but when he is healthy, he’s a handful.
Should Dillashaw get past Cruz, or even if he doesn’t, there might be mounting pressure to put him in the Octagon opposite Faber. In the past, they’ve steadfastly said they don’t want to fight each other, but with this recent rift, things could quickly take a turn in a different direction. Even Dillashaw now admits that he’d consider it.
“(Faber) is obviously looking for a big fight in his career. I’ll be the last statement on his career if that (fight needs to happen), but it’s not the way I really want to do it,” said Dillashaw. “Most likely (I’d agree to fight Faber). I don’t want to have to fight Urijah. It’s not something I want to have to do. I love the guy, (but) the ball is in his court.”
Both men have recently said that they’d like to maintain their friendship, but after the public comments each has made, it looks like there might be a lot of fence mending to do before that happens. And in a sport that is built on top of bravado, it might not be a good idea to hold your breath on that happening.