Immediate title rematches normally take place when the first fight was extremely close or the former champion came off of a long championship reign. Rarely do fans get to see a return bout for a title when the champion failed to make a successful title defense and was stopped in the second round by devastating knockout. Those were the days when title shots were based on merit, and not based on what could potentially sell the most pay-per-views.
Case in point: Saturday’s UFC 227 main event between bantamweight champion TJ Dillashaw and Cody Garbrandt. At UFC 217 in November, after nearly getting stopped in the first round, Dillashaw bounced back in the second round to knock Garbrandt out. The UFC attempted to book a superfight with Dillashaw and flyweight champion Demetrious Johnson. However, the fight didn’t materialize because Johnson needed to have shoulder surgery. Instead of going with rightful contenders Marlon Moreas or Raphael Assuncao, the UFC unexpectedly went right back to Garbrandt.
“I would say he doesn’t deserve it on the sporting level, but on the attention level, the fans want to see it,” Dillashaw told Sporting News. “It’s not that they don’t want to see it. Look at me as an example. I lost my title to Dominick Cruz and most people said I won. It took me two big fights and almost two years to get another title shot. I worked my way back. But, there’s a lot of drama here and the fans want to see it. This is a hyped up fight. The first fight was back-and-forth. Ultimately, it’s the biggest fight for attention. Sometimes we are in the entertainment business.”
UFC 227: Dillashaw vs. Garbrandt 2 fight date, PPV price, how to watch, live stream
Dillashaw and Garbrandt are former training partners at the Team Alpha Male gym in Sacramento, led by UFC Hall of Famer Urijah Faber. In the fall of 2015, Dillashaw left Team Alpha Male with Duane Ludwig to start his own gym in Colorado. Dillashaw’s former Alpha Male teammates deemed him a traitor and it has resulted in a vitriolic feud between the two sides. The feud has only escalated with constant barbs traded in interviews and on social media. It all came to a head when Dillashaw faced his former training partner last November. For the current champion, the violent way the fight ended was a culmination of the drama that has taken place over the past several years.
“It was a very long thing,” Dillashaw admits. “It was longer than a year. Before I was even fighting Cody, there was a bunch of drama. They were trying to badmouth me when I was fighting (Dominick) Cruz. It’s been a long road. Unfortunately for Cody, he has to go out and fight someone else’s battles. This battle wasn’t started for me and him. There was no bad blood between us personally. It’s because of the team and Urijah (Faber) trying to badmouth Duane (Ludwig) and myself. He, unfortunately, has to deal with all of that. I can sit back and enjoy my training, start my own gym and enjoy life when he has to have this pressure on his shoulders of having to defend Team Alpha Male against everyone. That sucks going into a fight but (the victory) was very satisfying. He made one mistake and I knocked him out.”
Regardless of how Dillashaw and the rest of the world feel about Garbrandt getting another championship opportunity, UFC 227 is upon us. It will be extremely difficult for the 32-year-old to exceed what he did nine months ago, but that won’t stop him from trying to do so.
“(I just have to) be more dominant,” Dillashaw said. “There’s a lot I didn’t get to show in that first fight. “He’s a good fighter, don’t get me wrong. His wrestling isn’t bad and he packs a good punch, but he’s not a complete fighter. I’m better everywhere. I’ll beat Cody at his game.”