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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

UFC 214: Jones heavy favorite against Cormier in co-main event

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If one believes a long hiatus from the Octagon benefits a fighter’s mystique more than technique, then the price might be right on Daniel Cormier.

Ahead of the most fervently anticipated rematch in the company’s history, Jon Jones is a -260 favorite against the +200 underdog Cormier in the co-main event for UFC 214 on Saturday, according to sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com.

The fight, which will top off a loaded main card at the Honda Center in Anaheim, California, has been in the offing since about 30 seconds after Jones won an unanimous decision against Cormier early in 2015, but Jones’ doping suspension has prevented it from happening.

The prices have moved in Jones’ favor since he opened at -150 with Cormier coming back at +120. Before the layoff, Jones was perhaps the best fighter to ever grace the UFC and it’s understandable why fans believe he’ll use his long reach to keep Cormier at bay and get him in the clinch.

Cormier backers, though, can take heart in the belief that his takedown defense could be sharper than it was against Jones 2 1/2 years ago. The bottom line is it’s rare to get a champion at such a high price.

In the co-main event, welterweight champion Tyron Woodley (-205) is favored against challenger Demian Maia (+165). Maia, who is plus money for the first time since 2014 (a bout that he lost to Rory MacDonald in a unanimous decision), is singleminded about getting a match to the mat in order to work toward a submission.

If Woodley can keep his focus on his takedown defense and keep the fight on their feet, his edge in athleticism and youth might prove to be the determining factor.

The prices for the women’s featherweight title fight between Cristiane (Cris Cyborg) Justino (-1100) and challenger Tonya Evinger (+650) underscore the difficulty Cyborg has finding a foe.  Cyborg has ended her last seven fights early, five in the first round. It might be better to pore over the odds on how many rounds Evinger, a solid wrestler, can hang in for during a fight that she accepted on relatively short notice.

Robbie Lawler (-160) is a slight favorite against Donald Cerrone (+130) in a twice-rescheduled welterweight matchup. It’s hard to know what to expect from Lawler, who’s been set back by injuries since his last fight against Woodley exactly 52 weeks ago. Cerrone is often vulnerable against left-handers such as Lawler, but takes an edge in stamina into what shapes up as an all-out brawl.

The main card starts off with a light heavyweight title eliminator, where Jimi Manuwa (-190) is favored against Volkan Oezdemir (+150). Manuwa, who is on a three-fight win streak, is the more developed and technically proficient of the two strikers. That might give him the edge against Oezdemir. It could be a quick resolution either way – Manuwa has 10 first-round knockouts in 17 pro fights, while Oezdemir has a powerful left hand and ample motivation to get a knockout and score a fight-of-the-night bonus.

Mayweather and McGregor end press tour with a bang in London

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Sometime before Floyd Mayweather Jr. stole Conor McGregor’s microphone and before McGregor walked behind Mayweather and pretended to spank him, it might have been hard to understand why all this was happening.

The four press conferences in four days. The insults and posturing. The clothes. Nobody seems to be talking about the 40-year boxing legend with increasingly public financial problems getting paid to fight an MMA star in his first-ever boxing match.

And that’s the whole point.

No matter what goes down on August 26, when Mayweather and McGregor finally put on boxing gloves and start punching each other, Friday’s press conference in London will live on in sports history.

Here are some of the best moments:

McGregor calls Mayweather’s body guards “Juice Head Turkeys”

McGregor has called out pretty much every member of Mayweather’s entourage this week, including his body guards. Earlier on the press tour, Mayweather ordered his security team to surround McGregor and some minor shoving ensued.

Apparently, the incident left a mark. McGregor had some choice words for those body guards on Friday and called them “juice head turkeys” from inside the ring.

Feel free to Google that expression, unless you’re offended by Thanksgiving arts and crafts or holiday recipes.

McGregor rubs Mayweather’s head

If McGregor were fighting, say, Adrian Beltre, this wouldn’t have gone down so smoothly.

But in one of the more revealing moments of the press conference, Mayweather  tried visibly not to laugh as McGregor rubbed his head and cracked some bald jokes. His best line might have been pointing out Mayweather’s fondness for wearing hats in public and asking him “What the [expletive] were you hiding under that thing?”

Mayweather does a chokehold in front of McGregor

McGregor’s most recent loss came against Nate Diaz in 2016, as the Irish fighter tapped out when Diaz put him in a rear naked choke-hold. Mayweather didn’t plan on letting McGregor forget that on Friday. Imitating the MMA move in front of his opponent, Mayweather even had his DJ cue up a few bars of Rich Gang’s 2013 single “Tapout.”

He then asked the decidedly pro-McGregor crowd why they decided to put their faith in “this quitter,” before asking them to get Nate Diaz on the phone.

“If you quit once, you quite twice,” Mayweather said. “If you quit twice, you quit three times. But on the fourth time, I’m going to knock you the [expletive] out.”