T.J. Dillashaw isn’t concerned with trying to sell his main event with Renan Barao at UFC 173 later this month. He figures the inevitable rematch will sell itself.
"It’s going to be a talked-about fight when I beat him," Dillashaw told FOX Sports on Monday.
Barao, one of the top pound-for-pound fighters in the world and the UFC bantamweight champion, is a 10-to-1 favorite on May 24 in Las Vegas. The Brazilian has not lost a fight in nine years, a streak of 22 straight wins.
Dillashaw, on the other hand, has never been on a main card. Even the Californian admits he’s getting this title shot earlier than expected.
But none of that means Dillashaw, 28, doesn’t think — strike that, know — he’s going to beat Barao. He’s immensely confident despite the majority of fans and media counting him out.
No matter what the circumstances are, there’s going to be doubters. I get to prove everyone wrong. I can’t wait to do it, I can’t wait to shut their mouths
"No matter what the circumstances are, there’s going to be doubters," Dillashaw said. "I get to prove everyone wrong. I can’t wait to do it, I can’t wait to shut their mouths."
The way Dillashaw sees it is that he has been thinking about Barao for a long time. When his Team Alpha Male teammate Urijah Faber was training to fight Barao at UFC 169 on Feb. 1, Dillashaw’s task was to mimic Barao in sparring. So before Dillashaw even knew he was fighting him, he was studying film on Barao, trying to get inside his head and learning his movements.
Dillashaw didn’t think he would get this opportunity so quickly. He lost to Raphael Assuncao by split decision in October (a fight he believes he won) and that should have set up Assuncao facing Barao this month. But when the UFC came calling, Assuncao was injured. That opened the door and Dillashaw would have been silly to not walk through it.
"I knew it was coming," Dillashaw said of a title shot. "I figured it would be toward the end of this year."
Dillashaw (9-2) has won five of his last six UFC fights after losing to John Dodson in the Ultimate Fighter 14 finals in 2011. He was a Division I wrestler in college, but has become more known for his aggressive stand-up style, honed under the tutelage of departing Team Alpha Male coach Duane "Bang" Ludwig. In his last fight, Dillashaw dominated durable foe Mike Easton for three rounds en route to a unanimous decision win at UFC Fight Night in January.
Many people see him as a lamb being sent to slaughter against Barao, who finished Faber by TKO in the first round back in February. Dillashaw doesn’t even pay attention to the pundits.
"This is what I do," Dillashaw said. "If you’re not training to be the best, then what’s the point? And you have to believe ‘I’m the best’ to be the best."
Dillashaw was supposed to fight Takeya Mizugaki at UFC 173. He’ll go from a potential matchup with a middling veteran to a title shot against the man UFC president Dana White has called the best fighter on the planet.
But pardon Dillashaw if he isn’t shaking in his wrestling shoes.
"Going in there scared of Barao," he said, "is not going to help me."