Throughout the history of the Ultimate Fighting Championship, top ranked teammates have thrown away opportunities to further their career, and even title shots due to friendships with other fighters in their weight class. They’ve avoided the title shot they’ve earned by moving up or down in weight to start a new, and sometimes even more difficult run. It’s something that angers Dana White and is tough to understand for others. It also tests how deep these friendships truly are.
When it comes to brothers from another mother like Cain Velasquez and Daniel Cormier refusing to fight each other, it makes all of the sense in the world. Iron sharpens iron, and these two go so hard in training together on a daily basis in preparation for their own fights. It’d be silly to risk not only a friendship, but a irreplaceable training weapon within your own gym when both are perfectly capable of holding titles in separate divisions.
In the case of newly crowned bantamweight champion T.J. Dillashaw and his longtime friend and training partner Urijah Faber, you have to wonder if there may be some underlying jealousy or even some dissension amongst the two. According to T.J. – it’s all about the big payday.
“So it’s not like I’m dying to fight Urijah,” Dillashaw told UFC Tonight’s Chael Sonnen when asked about a potential fight between the two alpha males. “I don’t want to go out and fight Urijah Faber, you know. He’s the one that brought me into this sport and he’s one of my best friends and we hang out everyday,” the new champ continued. “Obviously we’re both influenced by money. Let’s make it happen by getting us paid really well and having a smile on our face while we’re smacking each other.”
Faber lost a five round UD to Barao back at UFC 149 for the interim bantamweight title after then champion Dominick Cruz was sidelined due to injury. Faber would go 4-0 during his 2013 campaign to earn himself a rematch against Barao. This fight would be for the undisputed title with Cruz being stripped of his title due to consistent injury issues. This time around, Barao would stop Faber in the first round, and it would be time for another member from his team to take a shot. According to Dillashaw, Faber may have fared better if he would’ve taken some of his advice.
“I tried telling Urijah when I was cornering him the first time he fought Barao he needed Dominick Cruz’s footwork to beat the champ,” Dillashaw told Chael Sonnen when asked if he was influenced by Cruz in his own preparation for Barao. “I thought that Cruz could beat Renan Barao if they were to fight. It’d be a tough fight but if he was going to beat him it’d be because of his footwork,” Dillashaw continued. “And so, I just kind of by telling Urijah what I wanted him to do, I just kind of copycatted it and used that movement and that footwork to get out of the way and create my angles to keep myself elusive.”
Is Faber’s 0-6 record in his last six title fights under the ZUFFA banner due to his refusal to evolve? Sure, a UFC title has finally come home to the team he founded a decade ago, that has to make him happy, right? That said, this isn’t Joseph Benavidez getting the belt at flyweight, or even Chad Mendes snatching Jose Aldo’s featherweight title. This is T.J. Dillashaw taking the belt inside of the division Faber has competed at exclusively since the WEC was absolved into the UFC.
For Faber, fighting Dillashaw may be his last chance at a big PPV payday. “The California Kid” is now a 35-year-old man. Like B.J. Penn and Jens Pulver did for the lightweight division, Urijah Faber paved the way for the feathers and bantams. Have things come full circle? Is it time for the now elder statesman to pass that proverbial torch to his teammate? Or is that UFC moment on the grandest stage of them all still available for Faber? The only way to get it may be by dethroning the kid he saw so much promise in years ago. The kid he’s now watched pass him by.
One thing is for sure, with Dillashaw in the throne, the UFC bantamweight division has gotten exactly what it’s been lacking – storylines. And sometimes the ultimate way to test any friendship can be a fist fight. Especially when dotted I’s, crossed T’s, and multiple 0’s are involved.