T.J. Dillashaw retained his Bantamweight title by knocking out Renan Barao -- again -- at UFC on FOX 16 on Sat. July 25, 2015 in Chicago, Illinois.
In doing so, he also remained the new face of the division.
But, according to Dominick Cruz -- the former 135-pound champion -- Dillashaw (as was the case with Renan Barao) is only being built up as the rightful division ruler because he is unable to regain his throne. That will change soon, though, as "The Dominator" revealed on The MMA Hour that once he returns to full strength, he is going to come back to claim what is his.
Furthermore, Cruz dissected the rematch between Dillashaw and Barao, suggesting that Barao' failure to evolve is ultimately what has triggered his recent struggles inside the Octagon. Regardless, Cruz never really bought into the Brazilian's hype event though company president Dana White made him out to be "the second coming of Jesus."
"No, I don't see that. he can still be very successful. I think that the sport is evolving and guys that aren't choosing to evolve with the sport are getting beaten. I never thought Barao was as good as everybody said he was. But, I couldn't say that because I've been on the sidelines. And Dana White was preaching about him like he was the next Jesus in coming. So, you just got to hear what Dana says and let him say what he wants about people to build the 135-pound division. With me gone, let's face it, they needed to build anybody they could in that slot. Barao was the guy that needed to be built because I wasn't there. And when T.J. came up, now he's the guy that needs to get built up because I am not there. That being said, the division has just been trying to strive and build with me gone. Now that I'm coming back, it can get back on its feet again. That's the truth."
The styles of Cruz and Dillashaw are often compared and deemed similar -- both like to use great footwork and feints to get the job done. According to Cruz, though, they are nothing alike, and went out of his way to dub Dillashaw nothing but a "wannabe."
"I see absolutely no similarities in my fighting style and T.J. Dillishaw's. The reason I say that is we do different things. He's switching stances and I'm not. I am doing something totally different that nobody understands. You can listen to my fights commentary from years ago, and what I was doing was awkward, herky jerky, never seen before. It was just weird. I got this weird style that doesn't make sense. Now four years later, the game is changed in the last four years. Now you hear commentary on T.J. Dillishaw that he is moving his feet, using feints switching his stance and instead of it being awkward and weird, it's beautiful to everybody else. So, the point is, the sport is evolving and people are starting to see the use of switch stances, the use of feints, angles and moving your feet and making people miss. That happened in the last four years since I have been out. Now, my style is being appreciated. When I go out there, people will see that T.J. Dillashaw is nothing but a wannabe and I look forward to going out there and proving that I am the best in the world. I'm in an extremely awkward position where you can only talk so much and only be so confident on the outside where people are going to listen to you when you can't go out there and compete. So there is only so much I can really say because I have to sit on my words right now. I have to sit on my hands because I'm injured. That's all you here on Twitter: 'Keep talking Dominick as you sit on the sidelines.' So that's what the public is thinking when I talk. So I'm careful with the words I choose because I can't go in there and compete quite yet. Dillishaw is out there competing, so kudos to him for staying healthy and keeping the division rolling. But, when I come back, the real fights are going to get started and people are going to see what this division is capable of with me as the champion."
Speaking of comebacks, Cruz says he is eying a return to action at the beginning of 2016 if all goes well with the rehabilitation of his latest ACL injury.
If he needs to push back his return, then he will, because as Cruz puts it, he has nothing that people want from him at the moment except perhaps his fame. And that is something Dillashaw wants, according to Cruz, because nobody actually believes he is the real champion and UFC can't seem to properly sell a title fight that features "The Viper" because of his lack of star power.
While he does give Dillishaw credit for defending the belt, Cruz says when the two finally do go toe-to-toe, he will be in for a rude awakening once he realizes what it's like to fight a real champion and not an interim gatekeeper like Barao.
As far as Duane Ludwig's bold claims that Dillashaw can knockout Cruz inside two rounds, "The Dominator" simply brushed it off. In fact, he claimed "Bang" could actually learn a thing or two from him -- he is confident he can be Ludwig's trainer with all the knowledge he can share.
This fight can't happen soon enough.