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T.J. Dillashaw thinks Conor McGregor imitators, like Dominick Cruz, are ‘getting old’

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T.J. Dillashaw is not only the current UFC bantamweight champion; he’s one of the best mixed martial artists in the world.

In just five and a half years, Dillashaw has climbed to the top of the mountain in the 135 lb weight class thanks to his impressive wrestling ability (he qualified for the NCAA D1 tournament three times during his time at Fullerton State) and the guidance of his striking coach Duane Ludwig.

Currently there are only three fighters who are ranked higher than Dillashaw in the promotion’s pound-for-pound rankings: Jon Jones, Demetrious Johnson, and Conor McGregor.

So yeah the 29-year old from the small town of Sonora, California has earned the right to run his mouth about the amount of success he’s had.

But don’t expect him to.

You see Dillashaw doesn’t live in the universe that McGregor resides in. While McGregor will use press conferences to talk about custom-made suits, watches, and the panties his opponents’ wife may wear in order to drum up interest about his next fight, Dillashaw has been forced to listen to his opponents complain about his lack of desire to trade insults.

Dominick Cruz, who is set to challenge Dillashaw for his bantamweight championship on Sunday, actually asked T.J. why he doesn’t feel the need to talk about his opponents or how great he is during a face-to-face sit down.

The champ’s answer: “‘Cause I don’t want to”

Dillashaw has no desire to change the person that he is because he doesn’t want a fake persona to define his run at the top.

“I want you to remember me for my fights, not because of what I’m talking about and the drama I’m creating.” Dillashaw told NBC Sports. “I want you to remember me because of my great performances. I want to be able to look back at my career and see that, instead of being a reality TV star.”

With the rapid amount of attention McGregor has received over the last 12 months, it makes sense for more fighters to try and follow his path to success, but it’s a dangerous game to play because not everyone is cut out to have a persona that hilariously degrades his or her opponent on the microphone.

Cruz has certainly upped the amount of verbal jabs he’s thrown at Dillashaw before they square off at the TD Garden in Boston, but the champ thinks this it is an act of desperation by his opponent.

“It looks out of character,” Dillashaw said, “like you’re trying too hard, so you end up saying some ridiculously outlandish stuff and I feel like that’s what happening to him. I’m not going to play the game or let him get under my skin. He’s just trying to do that to draw some attention towards himself.”

“He’s trying to stay relevant because he hasn’t fought that much in the last four years,” Dillashaw added. “He’s trying to pump himself up with a bunch of outlandish talking and he’s kind of being a hypocrite as well. He’s not making much sense with what he’s doing. It’s kind of out of character for him.”

But it doesn’t seem like the trend of elevated belittlement is going to go away any time soon in the UFC, especially with the amount of money McGregor is generating. McGregor’s victory over Chad Mendes at UFC 189 had over one million PPV buys and his 13-second KO of Jose Aldo at UFC 194 could wind up as the second highest grossing PPV in company history when the numbers are finally released.

There is a direct correlation between McGregor running his mouth and over a million people forking over $50-$60 to watch him fight. He’s become the sport’s biggest male star by becoming an entertainer on the microphone and in the cage, so it’s easy to see why fighters would want to try and copy his blueprint, even if it means changing their personality outside of the octagon.

“I think only so many people can do what McGregor does. McGregor is really good at what he does and it works for him,” Dillashaw told me, “but for people to change who they are to kind of be that type of person, it doesn’t really work.”

Whether it works or not, it seems like the UFC is about to enter a world where there are carbon copies of McGregor’s road to success and excess and it’s something that Dillashaw is very worried about.

“With more people trying to talk that way, it’s going to make it too fake, too WWE. Eventually it’s going to get old. I think it’s already starting to get old.”

It’s a trend that Dillashaw will have to deal with going forward, but he has the ability to thrive in this world because he doesn’t feel the pressure to verbally assault his opponent, so he’s more likely to stand out in the landfill of trash talk.

“By being respectful and acting true to my colors, my personality will seem unique in the long run if guys continue to act like this.”

There is a sense of pride that you can hear in Dillashaw’s voice when he talks about the legacy that he wants to leave. He wants to make sure that every time he steps into the octagon, he’s putting on the best performance he possibly can for the fans, which means he doesn’t have time to worry about stringing together a series of insults.

“Hopefully people will want to watch me fight because I’m no bullshit,” Dillashaw said. “I just step in there and fight.”

On Sunday Dillashaw has the chance to add another victory to his impressive resume and you can bet he’ll let his fists do the talking.

Twitter: @ScottDargis

Kevin Lee Slight Favorite Over Michael Chiesa on UFC Fight Night 112 Odds

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Odds are inching toward parity in the matchup between Kevin Lee and Michael Chiesa that ranks as one of the most anticipated non-title fights of the year in the UFC.

Lee is the -140 betting favorite against the +110 underdog Chiesa at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com in their lightweight division matchup that will headline UFC Fight Night 112 in Oklahoma City. The showdown between burgeoning lightweight division contenders will cap off the card at Chesapeake Energy Arena on Sunday.

Lee, who is 15-2 in the UFC promotion, rates the edge as a striker and also has a strong grappling base that originates from his days as a collegiate wrestler. The 24-year-old has won eight of his last nine bouts, including his four most recent, only one of which went to a decision.

Chiesa has a comparable 14-2 record, which includes a three-win streak with the past two by rear-naked chokes. The older of the two at age 29, he is a crafty scrambler, which probably is an underlying reason for why his price has come down slightly from +115. His work in the clinch could keep Lee from being able to fight on his own terms, which can often cause a younger fighter’s focus to fray.

Whoever wins, it should be a good one, and both will stay high up in the lightweight hierarchy.

The co-main event is a middleweight matchup, with Johny Hendricks listed as a strong -225 favorite on the UFC Fight Night 112 odds against Tim Boetsch (+175). It’s the second fight at the heavier weight class for Hendricks, who seems rejuvenated now that he no longer has to be concerned about cutting weight – and draining his cardiovascular capacity – during the final weeks of pre-fight training.

However, Hendricks’ popularity as an ex-welterweight champion and the way he won his middleweight debut against inconsistent Hector Lombard have driven his price toward a low rate of return.

If Hendricks drops his defense, that might give Boetsch the opening to use his strength and land some massive combinations. While it’s true Boetsch has lost five of his last eight fights, there’s a reason he keeps getting bookings.

Justine Kish (-105) is a small underdog against Felice Herrig (-125) in a women’s strawweight bout that seems likely go the distance, as both have a strong base in kickboxing while neither has big-time punching power. In a toss-up such as this, it might be wise to take the more seasoned fighter, Herrig.

And Dennis Siver (-210) is favored against fellow featherweight veteran BJ Penn (+170), in what is a “last stand” bout for each nearly 40-year-old fighter. Penn has been in the Octagon more recently than Siver, who hasn’t fought since 2014, and also has an edge in punching power and landing significant strikes. Siver might also be the level of fighter that the 38-year-old Penn can beat at this twilight stage of his career.

 

 

Aldo favored at home against Holloway in UFC 212 co-main event

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The scenario at UFC 212 seems like a win-win for Jose Aldo, since he’ll be on home soil against Max Holloway in a fight that reckons to unfold mostly in the stand-up.

Aldo, who’s been known to be choosy about which fights he takes, is set as a -150 betting favorite against the +120 underdog Holloway for their featherweight unification title bout at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com. The fight will cap off the card at Jeunesse Arena in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Aldo has been stopped only twice in 28 career fights, while Holloway has only one loss by submission over 20 fights. While the 30-year-old Aldo might be past his peak in speed, he thrives at slowly revealing his striking arsenal over the course of a fight and will have a slew of time to do so, due to the reduced threat of a takedown.

Holloway, who comes in as the interim champion, has an edge in reach and will certainly go on the offensive. Holloway, who excels at backing up opponents and throwing combinations with his hands, will land some significant strikes. Whether that’s enough to earn a decision remains to be seen.

All 12 scheduled fights feature Brazilian fighters. Since the start of 2016, Brazilian fighters competing on home soil in the UFC are 14-6 against foreign opponents, but only four were plus-money underdogs.

In the co-main event, rising women’s strawweight star Claudia Gadelha (-350) is a favorite against Karolina Kowalkiewicz (+265) on the UFC 212 betting lines. Gadelha has a well-developed takedown defense that might help her with taking the fight to the ground and negating Kowalkiewicz’s striking.

In keeping with the night’s Hawaiian vs. Brazilian theme, Yancy Medeiros (-143) is favored against Erick Silva (+123) in a welterweight bout. Silva picks his spots with his striking and is very accurate, whereas Medeiros is a volume striker to the extent that he lands an above-average number of strikes per minute, but connects less than 35 per cent of time. Playing a patient game could help Silva get the win.

Vitor Belfort (-160) is favored against fellow veteran middleweight Nate Marquardt (+140) even though Belfort has lost three of his last five fights by stoppage (and the other was a no-contest). It shapes up as a tilt where the fighter who lands the first big shot will probably win. Marquardt, 3-7 in his last 10 fights, still has some striking ability and a bit of durability.

Based on each man’s brief track record in the UFC, Paulo Henrique Costa (-280) and Oluwale Bamgbose (+240) could have a quick resolution. Costa is not only 9-0, but none of his fights have gone beyond the first round. All six of Bamgbose’s wins have been decided in Round 1. Bamgbose has shown more vulnerability to strikes, meaning Costa is likely to receive some openings.