T.J. Dillashaw holds the UFC bantamweight championship and a terrific skill set in mixed martial arts.
He also holds his tongue.
“I’m not one of those guys who’s going to do the Conor McGregor thing and talk a bunch of crap to make money,” Dillashaw said on a conference call. “I’m in this and I want to look back on my career and know that I made the right choices and that I portrayed myself the way I want to be portrayed. I’m not going to look like a jackass while doing it.
“It all comes down to the night of the fight.”
That night is Sunday, and that fight is a title defense against former champion Dominick Cruz in the main event of UFC Fight Night 81 in Boston.
As simple as Dillashaw keeps his pre-fight answers to questions, Cruz (20-1) is the opposite. He’s as quick with the verbal jabs as he is with the physical ones.
“The truth is people want to hear what we have to say as athletes and they don’t want to just see what we do as fighters, that’s usually not enough to interest people, it doesn’t sell a lot of tickets,” Cruz said. “They want to hear what you believe in yourself leading into the fight on top of going in there and throwing down and putting on a good performance. So I’m just doing all angles of things. T.J. still hasn’t figured that out yet but maybe he’ll figure it out eventually and sell some tickets.”
That’s among the softer shots Cruz has thrown at Dillashaw (13-2) in the lead-up to Sunday’s title fight.
This will be Cruz’s first fight since Sept. 27, 2014, a span of 477 days. That’s not even half of his longest layoff between fights as injuries took their toll — and his bantamweight title — after the UFC stripped him of it in January 2014.
Cruz went 1,089 days between fights — Oct. 1, 2011, to Sept. 27, 2014 — a span in which he dealt with three separate knee injuries.
Renao Barao, then the interim champion, became the undisputed champion by beating Urijah Faber in February 2014. He then lost the title to Dillashaw in May.
“What it comes down to in a fight is believing in my abilities and believing in my fluidity and the things that I do and naturally letting my reactions take place because I already put in the work in camp, I already trained hard,” Cruz said. “T.J.’s mentioned that he’s hungrier than me, but that can’t even be gauged so it’s a pretty ignorant fact.”
Dillashaw didn’t give in then, nor at any point on the call.
“I feel like he needs a little bit more respect and I’ve always been a respectful opponent,” Dillashaw said. “He can’t take the fact that I believe in myself and that I’m a better fighter.”