In the discussion of the greatest bantamweight fighter of all time, there are only a select few fighters that get brought up, mainly Dominick Cruz, Urijah Faber, and TJ Dillashaw.
While many would point to Cruz at this point for that discussion, it is becoming increasingly difficult to deny Dillashaw of that title, considering Faber’s retirement and Cruz’s inactivity. Dillashaw has always been an active fighter. Ever since losing his title to Cruz in a razor-close split decision back in 2015, Dillashaw has been on a tear, defeating top contenders such as Raphael Assuncao and John Lineker. He ultimately managed to put himself in the position to be undeniable to get another shot at the title, and faced off against his arch-rival Cody Garbrandt at UFC 217, where he regained his title via second-round knockout against then-seemingly unstoppable Garbrandt.
Most recently, Dillashaw granted Garbrandt an immediate rematch for the title last August at UFC 227, where he once again proved his dominance in the division, finishing Garbrandt yet again, this time in the very first round.
In his next fight, against Henry Cejudo on the first UFC card on ESPN, he will have a chance that no other bantamweight champion has been given in the past, where he will attempt to become a two-division champion.
However, this is not just another chance to become a double champion, there are some outlying factors about this opportunity that Dillashaw has. One main difference, and the most obvious, is that instead of going up in weight to try and gain another title, he will be heading down to the division below.
It’s a unique situation to say the least. Out of all the UFC champions that have achieved the feat Dillashaw is aiming for (Conor McGregor, Daniel Cormier and Amanda Nunes), none of them have started in a division and moved their way down to accomplish it. Regardless, there is something special about this opportunity that Dillashaw has.
Considering the possible shutdown of the flyweight division, you can’t help but wonder what the UFC’s future plans are. Why are they doing this? What will happen if Dillashaw manages to beat Cejudo and become the flyweight champion? For that matter, what will happen if Cejudo prevails? It’s all up in the air.
The worthy venture
But one thing that we are sure about, is that no matter what the future plans are, if Dillashaw defeats Cejudo and does become a two-division champion, it will be a historic accomplishment. Think of it this way: If Dillashaw comes out on top, then not only does it open a lot more doors for him in the future in terms of superfights, but it also cements his place in the history as one of the greatest to ever do it, at the age of just 32. Which, by no means is young in the sport, but it is unarguable that he still has a lot more years left in him.
By beating Cejudo, Dillashaw’s argument for that becomes far stronger than what he has now. Cejudo recently won the flyweight title by defeating whom a lot of fans and experts name as the greatest fighter of all time, in Demetrious Johnson. Although Johnson is no longer with the company, the memory of Cejudo upsetting one of the most dominant champions in the history of the company is still fresh.
With that being said, should Dillashaw be able to get the job done against who beat Johnson less than six months after the moment, it is easily arguable on his side that he not only defeated Cejudo but Johnson as well for that matter. Especially with a dominant win against the new flyweight king, it would be hard to deny that if Dillashaw does decide to turn to that path to argue for himself. Dillashaw has already been extremely open about how he felt about the Johnson fight not finalizing, this will give him a strong upper hand in the debate.
Now, going back to the superfights opening up in his future, Dillashaw has already stated his interest in fighting Max Holloway next.
Needless to say, it is too early to be making any plans on superfights as of now; he would have to get through what’s at his hand on January 19 first. But it is worthy to note that Dillashaw has one of the best nutritionists out there in Sam Calavitta, and we never see him show up to fights in any shape other than phenomenal. Whether Holloway will be around in the featherweight division long enough for anything to happen with Dillashaw is a whole another question, but it is interesting to see that Dillashaw is eyeing the division above as well.
Cejudo will not be an easy test for Dillashaw, not in the slightest. There are a lot of obstacles that ‘Killashaw’ must get through before the actual fight as well, mainly his first ever weigh-in as a flyweight. But all of the difficulties that he must get through beforehand will certainly be worth it, should he be able to get the job done come fight night.
Jaewon Paik is an MMA writer mainly contributing with editorials and feature articles. He is also a contributor at FanSided and CombatPress, and has formerly contributed over at MMALatestNews. He currently studies over at Ohio University.