It’s hard to blame TJ Dillashaw for being a self-described sore loser. He had a chance to do something few people have ever done in winning two titles in the UFC.
He also had a chance to make history, being the first person to go down in weight in their search for title number two rather than moving up. Months of intense dieting, rigorous training, and fending off questions about whether he would make weight – Dillashaw put up with all of it. He made the weight with room to spare, and was ready to pursue his goal.
Dillashaw had been gunning for this chance since before Henry Cejudo was the flyweight champion. He was constantly discussed for a fantasy match with then flyweight king Demetrious Johnson, but Johnson would lose his title in a razor-thin split decision.
Cejudo wasted no time accepting the challenge, calling out Dillashaw in his championship win post-fight speech. The Olympian who remains the youngest American to ever win a medal wasn’t about to let Dillashaw come down and take his championship without a fight.
It was a hectic opening – in the first 30 seconds, Cejudo shoved Dillashaw down and clipped him with a hook Dillashaw says landed to the back of the head. That put the challenger in trouble, and he was caught again with a hard punch that seemed to stun him before being put down with another flurry of shots right after.
The referee jumped in, Dillashaw jumped up protesting, but the win was in the record books. Cejudo retained, but Dillashaw remains upset. He’s called the loss a rough one to deal with, and said the inexperience of the official may have had something to do with his willingness to jump in so quick.
Dillashaw said: “Watching him ref, he was jumping around as soon as the commotion happened, looking for a reason to stop it, almost. . . That’s the part that bugs me more. I was there, it was a shot that hit me behind the head, and then a controversial stoppage, so it’s a rough one to swallow.”
Kevin Macdonald is catching a lot of grief for the stoppage, but he’s got 15 years of experience refereeing MMA fights. He also teaches courses on refereeing as well as judging. That means he’s by no means an amateur.
Dillashaw also brushed off concerns that the weight cut drained him, noting that while it was hard, he always lost weight from his face when he was cutting. This is what led to him looking drawn out in many photos. Dillashaw still claims he’s never been healthier and stronger than he was at flyweight – but all signs point to a rematch, if it happens, being at bantamweight.
While he may want a second chance, Dillashaw may have to wear the champ card in the second fight, and give Cejudo, a former bantamweight fighter himself, a chance at becoming a two-weight champion. At least Dillashaw will get to eat a bit more leading up to that one.