When T.J. Dillashaw finished Renan Barao at UFC 173 to win the bantamweight title, the front row of the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas was filled from side to side with his teammates cheering him on and erupting when he landed the knockout blow.
The person screaming the loudest and jumping up and down the most was Dillashaw’s mentor and close friend Urijah Faber, who along with his management team at MMA Inc helped recruit the young fighter to his camp at Team Alpha Male directly out of college. Now just a few years later, Dillashaw stands as the best fighter in the world at 135 pounds and Faber is like a proud poppa who just watched a prodigal son conquer one of the best fighters in MMA.
Ever since he started looking at this sport as a business, Faber has kept loose-leaf notebook paper tacked to his walls at home with hand written goals he wanted to accomplish along the way. These were daily reminders of what was important and what he was going after, and seeing Dillashaw win gold was a reminder of why he started doing it in the first place.
"I was looking back at my old goals that I’ve crossed out and had to remake and I didn’t need them and I’m always readjusting them, but back in 2009 one of my goals was build the tradition of world champions and we’ve had two now," Faber told The Great MMA Debate podcast. "I was a world champion for a lot of years and now T.J. Dillashaw is a world champion and we’ve got Chad (Mendes) up to bat, and we’ve got guys coming out of the woodwork. It’s really cool because T.J.’s kind of been the guy we’ve been grooming for the last couple of years.
I have no desire to fight T.J. I don’t think he wants to fight me either. I don’t see it happening
— Urijah Faber
"Not only one of the intense guys in the gym but one of the most astute guys making gains. He’s always learning and always getting better."
Faber’s role at Team Alpha Male goes beyond founding the camp and being the most well known member since its inception. He was also successful at the highest levels, but with one teammate already standing as a UFC champion and another on the precipice of achieving that goal, Faber isn’t currently the top dog anymore.
Faber is awfully close, however, considering his undefeated record against any fighter he’s faced in a non-title fight and constant top three ranking in whatever division he’s fighting in whether it’s featherweight or bantamweight. As he approaches his next fight against Alex Caceres at UFC 175, the questions then immediately shift to Faber earning another crack at the belt and possibly facing his teammate with the title on the line.
UFC president Dana White says he guarantees Faber and Dillashaw would fight if the bantamweight belt was up for grabs. Faber doesn’t necessarily agree with that statement.
"I have no desire to fight T.J. I don’t think he wants to fight me either. I don’t see it happening. I’ve got some big fights in front of me, and I hate to look ahead of anything," Faber said. "T.J.’s got some big fights in front of him also. They’re talking about the rematch with (Renan) Barao and then he has the loss against Raphael Assuncao, Dominick Cruz needs to get back in the mix, there’s a lot of fights that could happen. Even John Dodson has a win over T.J. that could be an interesting battle
"So there’s a lot of fights that could happen."
Faber’s career has been highlighted by main events and headline fights and that doesn’t have to change just because his teammate is champion and he’s ranked near the top in the division. The former WEC king still wants the biggest matchups the division can offer him, but none of them means he has to collide on the same path with Dillashaw.
"I’ve been a guy that’s been vying for the big fight since I started in this sport. When I first started, I asked for Charlie Valencia because he was the Gladiator Challenge/King of the Cage champion. Then it was (Alexandre) ‘Pequeno’ Nogueira that everybody thought was the big stud in Japan and I was asking for him. Then there was ‘Kid’ Yamamoto, then I became the man after that. The point is there’s some big fights out there for me," Faber said. "I think Barao’s a good fight for me, I think Cruz is a good fight for me, I think ‘Kid’ Yamamoto’s still in the works also, that would be a huge fight as well. A guy that’s a legend in the sport especially in Japan.
"I’m just looking forward to putting up some big fights and I’ve got to take this next guy seriously."
Much like the years where American Kickboxing Academy had two welterweights — Jon Fitch and Josh Koscheck — at the top of the division, Team Alpha Male hasn’t really been in a position where they’d have to face one another in the Octagon. While it’s a fun subject to toss around while looking for the juicy headline, the biggest factor of all is the fight has never been offered to Dillashaw or Faber so it’s not something they have to deal with anyways.
If Dana White or matchmaker Joe Silva come calling one day with a contract in hand to match up Faber with Dillashaw, then the entire team will take careful consideration to decide what comes next.
"I’m just going to continue to do what I do and if it really becomes an issue where they’re pressing that thing, we’ll have to cross that bridge when it comes," Faber said. "But it’s not something I’m looking to do."