Following his dominant win over Renan Barao, T.J. Dillashaw is basically ready for anyone the UFC hands him for his first title defense.
That, of course, is the bottom-line, politically correct thing to say, especially as a new champion who dethroned a fighter many thought was nearly unbeatable.
But if Dillashaw (10-2 MMA, 6-2 UFC) had his druthers, his first defense wouldn’t come against the man he knocked from the top of the pedestal, Barao (32-2 MMA, 7-1 UFC).
“I have no problem fighting him again, but I feel like he shouldn’t be getting an instant rematch the way he lost,” Dillashaw today told MMAjunkie Radio. “It would be different if maybe I’d have finished him in the first round with that choke and maybe people thought it was a fluke. But I beat him up for five rounds. I took it to him, and he had nothing for it.”
Dillashaw knocked Barao to the canvas in the first round and never really looked back. As a heavy underdog in the fight, he kept his foot on the gas throughout. And even though he left his stool in the fifth round confident he was up four rounds and could theoretically coast his way to the scorecards and his new bantamweight title, Dillashaw stayed after it and got a TKO win after again knocking Barao off his feet.
Barao, who hadn’t lost since 2005 in his first pro fight, and who brought a 33-fight unbeaten streak into the title tilt, had been considered by many, including at times UFC President Dana White, as the world’s best pound-for-pound fighter. At the very least, it had become a two-fighter equation for many between Barao and Jon Jones.
But Dillashaw spent 22 minutes and 21 seconds beating that theory back.
“It was a crazy feeling,” he said. “The fight felt like it was in slow motion. I can’t complain – it worked out perfectly. It actually worked out better than I expected. Obviously I go in there fighting the guy that’s been on a dominant win streak, and obviously I was an underdog for a reason. The guy’s a very good fighter. I knew it would take a lot to beat him. I had a huge feat in front of me. I just felt a groove, and I felt on. I’ve been doing a lot of work, and it all paid off.”
Dillashaw gets married in less than a month. Between that and a right hand that is swollen and sore from all the times it bounced off Barao’s head, the new champ may sit out for a little bit.
But when he returns, he believes there are three possibilities waiting for him in his first defense as Team Alpha Male’s first UFC champion: Raphael Assuncao, Takeya Mizugaki, and, of course, Barao.
Dillashaw lost to Assuncao this past October in Brazil in a contentious split decision that the new champ owes more to the crowd influencing the judges than anything else. And for that reason, he said he’d prefer to not have to travel to Brazil for a rematch with Assuncao or one with Barao.
Las Vegas, where he beat Barao at Saturday’s UFC 173 at MGM Grand Garden Arena, would be great. And so would his home base of Sacramento.
But Dillashaw doesn’t think he’ll be calling any shots in terms of who he fights next or where. That’s not the Team Alpha Male way.
“I’m sure if (Barao) wins, he can get back up to the title again,” Dillashaw said. “In my opinion, it wasn’t like a fluke thing. But ultimately, I don’t really care – it’s up to the boss man, and I’m going to be fighting whoever. If I could get my win back from Raphael that I thought I won … Mizugaki’s on a good run, too. And also Barao. Those are three good fights right there.”