There is some serious beef between UFC bantamweight champion TJ Dillashaw (pictured) and challenger Dominick Cruz, but some are looking past Sunday’s title tilt in hopes of seeing Dillashaw fight his former teammate and mentor, Urijah Faber, if Dillashaw were to retain his gold.
While some might consider Faber vs. Dillashaw a teacher vs. student tango given their history together, Cruz is actually the one who unknowingly tutored Dillashaw on his path to the top of the UFC bantamweight mountain.
“I tried telling Urijah when I was cornering him the first time he fought [Renan] Barao that he needed Dominick Cruz footwork to beat the champ. I thought that Cruz could beat Renan Barao if they were to fight. It’d be a tough fight, but if he was going to beat him, it was going to be because of his footwork. So by telling Urijah what I wanted him to do, I just kind of copycatted it and used that movement and that footwork to get out of the way and create my angles to keep myself elusive,” Dillashaw revealed after upsetting Barao to capture the crown back in 2014.
To steal a term from former UFC light heavyweight champ Rashad Evans, Dillashaw essentially “swagger jacked” Cruz’s game.
Dillashaw has since cemented himself as the game’s top 135-pounder, courtesy of Cruz’s blueprints. That was a moniker Cruz previously held, but countless injuries between 2011-2014 forced him to ride the pine during the prime years of his career. It also cost Cruz his bantamweight belt, because the UFC stripped him when he pulled out his comeback bout against Barao in early 2014 with another wound.
Even after Cruz made a triumphant return following a three-year hiatus by blasting Takeya Mizugaki in merely 61 seconds to earn a crack to reclaim his throne, Cruz suffered yet another injury that has had him sidelined until Sunday’s return.
Dillashaw marks Cruz’s second fight in roughly 50 months. Much has changed in the UFC bantamweight landscape during his absence, primarily who the new sheriff in town is.
However, will Dillashaw be able to out-Cruz Cruz when they finally square off? Will Dillashaw even try to test his movement moves against the master? Will this be the official passing of the torch if Dillashaw is victorious, or will Cruz take the torch back from the copycat?
Perhaps the teacher will show Sunday he still has all the answers.