Bad history, a grudge, elite talent: Cody Garbrandt-T.J. Dillashaw could steal show at UFC 217

Kevin Iole
Combat columnist
Cody Garbrandt (L) and T.J. Dillashaw do not like each other. (Getty)

The bantamweight title fight Saturday at New York’s Madison Square Garden between champion Cody Garbrandt and ex-champion T.J. Dillashaw figures to be an outstanding fight.

But sometimes, just the promise of a memorable battle isn’t enough to get folks to pay attention.

And so, as much as the matchup, the story for the Garbrandt-Dillashaw bout that will serve as the co-main event of a loaded UFC 217 card is the drama between the two.

Dillashaw reached the finals of “The Ultimate Fighter” and then went on to win the bantamweight title while a part of Urijah Faber’s Team Alpha Male. He is the man who finally brought a championship to the talent-laden team.

Garbrandt joined the team and immediately impressed all who saw him. In December, he put on a virtuoso performance in lifting the title from longtime champion and Team Alpha Male nemesis Dominick Cruz.

That win led to Saturday’s match with Dillashaw, who had lost his title to Cruz by the narrowest of margins on Jan. 17, 2016, in a bout that could have gone either way.

These are two highly gifted and intelligent fighters who easily could put on a fight for the ages.

But as one might expect in our celebrity-obsessed culture, that’s not the focus of the bout. Instead, it’s about who did whom dirty and the split between Dillashaw and Team Alpha Male. The tension between the two was palpable on the set of “The Ultimate Fighter,” when they coached against each other earlier this year.

We love a look behind the curtain and a chance to see how the sausage is made.

It was inevitable, perhaps, that it would come to this. Faber is a Hall of Famer. Dillashaw is a former champion. Garbrandt is the reigning champion and could be the one to follow in the massive footsteps of Chuck Liddell, Ronda Rousey and Conor McGregor to become the promotion’s next superstar.

They were teammates, but there is only one title and it was probably just a matter of time before their competitiveness led to some sort of dispute.

Cody Garbrandt could be the UFC’s next superstar. (Getty Images)

The drama over the split was accelerated when Dillashaw began traveling to Denver to work with coach Duane Ludwig, whom he believed would improve his striking. Indeed, Dillashaw’s development was accelerated when Ludwig helped him with his footwork and his angles. In a way, he became a mini-Cruz by using those traits to make himself more offensive and less vulnerable to counter attacks.

But then allegations came out that Dillashaw went beyond the line in training and that he was hurting his teammates. That, Team Alpha Male members said, was the reason for the split, not so much Dillashaw’s decision to use Ludwig.

Chris Holdsworth, another Team Alpha Male fighter who won Season 18 of “The Ultimate Fighter,” hasn’t fought since 2014. He said Monday on “The MMA Hour” that he was kneed in the head during a training session with Dillashaw. He’s had concussion-related issues since and hasn’t been cleared to compete since “The Ultimate Fighter.”

“There were multiple occasions where T.J. got a little bit too aggressive and he went overboard in training,” Holdsworth told host Ariel Helwani. “He’s kneeing you while we’re boxing. He’s throwing elbows while we’re doing jiu-jitsu. And I remember that instance that’s out in the public. Yeah, it’s definitely true. I shot in on T.J. and I was on all fours. He was sprawled out and he kneed me on top of the head. And that was before ‘The Ultimate Fighter.’

“I remember I was jarred up and everyone was watching, and I took like 30 seconds off and I kept going, I kept going through the rounds and I finished practice. But after that practice, I was concussed, and that was my first concussion. And it just kind of kept happening from there.”

Garbrandt and Dillashaw were originally going to meet on July 8 in Las Vegas at UFC 213, but Garbrandt injured his back and had to withdraw. At the time, Faber told Yahoo Sports that he’d had to regularly counsel Dillashaw about the way he handled himself in training.

Dillashaw, he said, was too rough and didn’t recognize limits.

“Yeah, man, I don’t know what he was thinking, but I talked with T.J. a lot about that,” Faber said then. “There’s a fine line there. When we’re in practice, we’re trying to get better and learn, and this is a contact sport, but it’s practice, not a fight. T.J., man, it was like he was doing it intentionally. I don’t know, but it was just kind of crossing the line.”

The situation devolved and led to bad feelings and a lot of media attention. But what it also did was covered up the fact that Garbrandt and Dillashaw are two of the best fighters in the world, regardless of weight class, and their bout could steal the show Saturday.

Garbrandt irritated middleweight champion Michael Bisping, who defends his title against ex-welterweight champ Georges St-Pierre in Saturday’s main event, by suggesting that the bantamweight title bout is the true main event.

“This isn’t a gimme fight,” Garbrandt said. “The GSP-Bisping fight is the gimme fight. They’re just trying to sell the tickets. Our fight sells on all avenues, all angles, everywhere. Everyone wants to see this fight. It’s a grudge match. It’s two fighters who are going to go out there, so that in itself is the main event. No disrespect to Rose [Namajunas] and [women’s strawweight champion] Joanna Jedrzejczyk. I think they’re great fighters, but we’re the real main event.

“Bisping and GSP, they can travel around and can do all the press and media. I can sit back and just train and focus on T.J. I don’t think it needs to be overhyped [more] than it’s going to be. It’s a fight that doesn’t need hype, it doesn’t need media, press behind it or any of that. I think the fight sells itself.”

It does, but so many of us love the drama that we can’t resist.

So while Garbrandt-Dillashaw promises to be a momentous match, “As Team Alpha Male Turns” is getting at least as much attention.

It’s a part of the business, but the drama will end on Saturday when Garbrandt and Dillashaw settle the only argument that really means anything: which of them is the greatest bantamweight mixed martial artist in the world.

More from Yahoo Sports:
What Garoppolo trade tells us about Belichick
Refs leave field after high school anthem protest
NFL-best Eagles improve with trade for Pro Bowl RB
Jackie Robinson cap testifies to racist era

  • Canada's finance ministers meet in Ottawa to discuss trade, competitiveness
    News
    CBC

    Canada's finance ministers meet in Ottawa to discuss trade, competitiveness

    Canada's provincial and territorial finance ministers are meeting with their federal counterpart in Ottawa to discuss equalization payments, competitiveness and trade. 

  • Toronto mayor, TTC union ask Ontario govt to step in on transit modernization
    News
    The Canadian Press

    Toronto mayor, TTC union ask Ontario govt to step in on transit modernization

    As the transit agency in Canada's most populous city prepares to do away with its decades-old payment system, Toronto's mayor and the union representing transit workers are asking the Ontario government to step in and fix what they describe as faulty technology in the higher-tech replacement. December marks the last month commuters will be able to use Metropasses on the Toronto Transit Commission system as the network of buses, streetcars and subways switches over to Presto, an electronic tap-card payment system used mostly in southern Ontario. Toronto Mayor John Tory is urging the province to "get this program into shape to make sure it provides the reliable service that transit riders deserve," his office said Sunday.

  • New phone line lends lonely seniors a friendly ear
    News
    CBC

    New phone line lends lonely seniors a friendly ear

    An Ottawa organization is hoping a simple phone call to someone with the time to listen can help seniors struggling with loneliness. Rural Ottawa South Support Services is now operating a line called "A Friendly Voice" which allows seniors to call in and get a sympathetic ear. Kelly Dumas, the organization's executive director, said the agency believes there's a real need for such a service.

  • Boil-water advisory lifted for Milton
    News
    CBC

    Boil-water advisory lifted for Milton

    A boil-water advisory issued Friday by Halton Region for parts of Milton has been lifted.

  • TransLink puts forward proposal for SkyTrain to Langley by 2025
    News
    CBC

    TransLink puts forward proposal for SkyTrain to Langley by 2025

    The plans were posted late last week in advance of a Mayors Council meeting Thursday. The proposed line would include eight stations along 16 kilometres. In November, the mayors voted to scrap plans for the Surrey-Newton-Guildford LRT project in favour of a SkyTrain along the Fraser Highway to Langley. The LRT project was projected to be completed by 2024.

  • Montreal's pop-up markets offer artisanal, sustainable Christmas shopping
    News
    CBC

    Montreal's pop-up markets offer artisanal, sustainable Christmas shopping

    A number of local crafters and artisans in Montreal have banded together this holiday season to present consumers with a more sustainable Christmas shopping opportunity. This holiday season, Canadians are expected to spend, on average, $625 on gifts, according to accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers. The Make Space market was organized by sisters Meaghan and Allison Kelly, and is intended to showcase the work of young women who create handmade goods.

  • Australian regulator says probe of tech giants spurs five investigations
    News
    Reuters

    Australian regulator says probe of tech giants spurs five investigations

    Australia's competition regulator says it has five investigations afoot as a result of its examination of the market power and public influence of tech giants such as Facebook Inc and Alphabet Inc's Google. "We have five investigations underway, arising from this report," Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) chairman Rod Sims told reporters in Sydney.

  • Group wants harness racing industry to get younger
    News
    CBC

    Group wants harness racing industry to get younger

    Brendan Curran says it's hard to explain the feeling you get when you watch your horse race down the track in front of a cheering crowd. There were only six tracks active in the Maritimes last year — three in Nova Scotia, two on P.E.I. and one in New Brunswick.

  • Fastest fireman competition showcases unbelievable speed
    Rumble

    Fastest fireman competition showcases unbelievable speed

    Now that's some incredible talent!

  • Edmonton shisha lounge reopens after owner appeals 2nd closure
    News
    CBC

    Edmonton shisha lounge reopens after owner appeals 2nd closure

    An Edmonton shisha bar has reopened days after the city pulled its business licence for the second time. Nyala Lounge owner Moe Tesfay learned his business was closed on Dec. 4 when he received a letter from the city's licensing department. The latest license revocation came after the lounge was accused of allegedly breaching business licence conditions between March and August.

  • ServiCom workers trying to stay optimistic amid community support
    News
    CBC

    ServiCom workers trying to stay optimistic amid community support

    Some former employees of ServiCom call centre in Cape Breton are trying to remain optimistic and say they've been bolstered by an outpouring of support from their community. 

  • 'Eager to see a change': Downtown BIA members elect an almost entirely new board
    News
    CBC

    'Eager to see a change': Downtown BIA members elect an almost entirely new board

    The Downtown Windsor Business Improvement Association (DWBIA) has a new board for the 2019-2022 slate — and its board members are almost all entirely new. Of the eight elected board members, Mary Anne Ducharme is the only returning member. Chairman Larry Horwitz was not re-elected.

  • The Momoa effect: N.L.'s growing film industry funnels millions into province, says report
    News
    CBC

    The Momoa effect: N.L.'s growing film industry funnels millions into province, says report

    Jason Momoa might be an outlaw trapper obsessed with murdering company fat cats in the 18th-century drama series Frontier, but he's actually making modern Newfoundland and Labrador quite a lot of money, according to a new economic impact report. The Canadian Media Producers Association, which issued the report, selects film productions across the country and conducts analyses of where the cash goes and who it helps. It laid out a rosy picture of Frontier's effect on Newfoundland and Labrador.

  • I was just a kid myself when I became a mom, but my family and community made it easier
    News
    CBC

    I was just a kid myself when I became a mom, but my family and community made it easier

    A first pregnancy is supposed to be a happy and exciting time, but that wasn't the case for me. Instead, the early days of pregnancy were very difficult. Being around my teachers and friends at school was a relief during my pregnancy.

  • Outaouais hospital unveils new dialysis unit
    News
    CBC

    Outaouais hospital unveils new dialysis unit

    After 11 years of community mobilization and fundraising, a western Quebec hospital has finally unveiled its new dialysis unit. The new unit at the Shawville Hospital, located in the Pontiac regional municipality, means that more than 20 dialysis patients will no longer have to travel three times a week to Gatineau or into Ontario for treatment. It's the third dialysis unit to be opened in the Outaouais in recent years, with others debuting in Papineau and Maniwaki.

  • Police investigate break-in attempt at home connected to detained Huawei CFO
    News
    CBC

    Police investigate break-in attempt at home connected to detained Huawei CFO

    Vancouver police are investigating an alleged break-in at a home connected to a senior official at Chinese tech giant​ Huawei, who is currently detained in Vancouver. Meng Wanzhou, the chief financial officer and deputy chair of the board for Huawei, was arrested last week and is being sought for extradition by the United States. The home, at the intersection of 28th and Crown Street, is one of two Vancouver houses referred to in court on Friday as being owned by Meng.

  • Plateau restaurant Khyber Pass tears down part of facade after decade-long dispute
    News
    CBC

    Plateau restaurant Khyber Pass tears down part of facade after decade-long dispute

    The restaurant was ordered to take down the facade by the end of November. Open since the 1990s, the restaurant has had its wooden exterior for 10 years. After their latest proposal was rejected by the Plateau-Mont-Royal borough's urban planning committee, the restaurant's owners took down the lower part of the facade.

  • Remembering Indigenous writer Richard Wagamese at launch of posthumous book
    News
    CBC

    Remembering Indigenous writer Richard Wagamese at launch of posthumous book

    One of the attendees, Monique Gray Smith—author of Speaking Our Truth, A Journey of Reconciliation—says Wagamese's writing set the tone for people to talk about reconciliation. "He opened doors for not just myself, but for all of us who are Indigenous storytellers and writers by increasing the awareness of publishers around the excellence in our writing … and really foraging a path forward," Smith told On the Island host Gregor Craigie. Smith says she recognizes Wagamese's influence in her own work.

  • Lot of love: 3 generations run Christmas tree business
    News
    CBC

    Lot of love: 3 generations run Christmas tree business

    While many people see the Christmas season as a time to spend with family, the Harringtons go above and beyond the typical holiday gatherings. Three generations of the Harrington family now run a Christmas tree lot that's been in Halifax for about 23 years. "It's a family business, so it can be an interesting dynamic sometimes," said Chris Harrington.

  • China's AI start-up Megvii raising $500 million at $3.5 billion valuation: sources
    News
    Reuters

    China's AI start-up Megvii raising $500 million at $3.5 billion valuation: sources

    Bank of China Group Investment Ltd, the state bank's private equity (PE) arm, is looking to lead the fundraising with $200 million, two of the people told Reuters, declining to be named as the information is confidential. Terms of the fundraising have not been finalised, the people added. Bank of China's PE arm did not respond to a request for comment.

  • Rapper The Game pulls out of Ranch Roadhouse performance following death of Edmonton man
    News
    CBC

    Rapper The Game pulls out of Ranch Roadhouse performance following death of Edmonton man

    American rapper The Game has pulled out of a performance at The Ranch Roadhouse in Edmonton following the death of a young man who was told to leave the bar on a freezing November night. The Game, whose name is Jayceon Terrell Taylor, announced he cancelled the Jan. 16, 2019 performance in an Instagram post Sunday. Taylor said several fans sent him messages, alerting him of the death of 20-year-old Mohamed Abdi.

  • Stocks extend decline as trade woes batter sentiment
    News
    Reuters

    Stocks extend decline as trade woes batter sentiment

    S&P futures were down 0.6 percent and the Dow futures lost 0.7 percent, while Australian stocks declined 0.9 percent. White House trade adviser Peter Navarro's comments that U.S. officials would raise tariff rates on Chinese imports if the two countries could not come to an agreement during a 90-day negotiating period fanned fresh concerns over U.S.-China trade relations. Markets were already reeling on news last week that Canadian officials had arrested the chief financial officer of Chinese smartphone maker Huawei for extradition to the United States.

  • Metro Vancouver detached home values likely to drop in next property assessment
    News
    CBC

    Metro Vancouver detached home values likely to drop in next property assessment

    The real estate market in most parts of Metro Vancouver has softened over the last year and homeowners will see those changes reflected in their property assessments next spring. In general, the rest of the province could expect increases of five to 15 per cent for assessed values of single-family homes.

  • Puppets, music, and horse-drawn sleighs: North Okanagan play retells story of Inuit legend
    News
    CBC

    Puppets, music, and horse-drawn sleighs: North Okanagan play retells story of Inuit legend

    The Caravan Farm Theatre, a company featuring outdoor productions on an 32-hectare farm in Armstrong, B.C. is celebrating its 40th year with a play that offers a new twist on a traditional Inuit story. This winter, the theatre is putting on a show called Sedna, based on an Inuit story about the goddess of the Arctic sea.

  • Natural gas to cost more in B.C. starting January 1
    News
    CBC

    Natural gas to cost more in B.C. starting January 1

    Starting Jan. 1, 2019, natural gas customers in B.C. will pay more. FortisBC says residential customers on the Mainland and Vancouver Island will pay nine per cent more a year. Residential customers in Fort Nelson will see an increase of seven per cent or $51 based on the average annual usage of 125 GJ.