Demetrious Johnson versus T.J. Dillashaw will go down as one of the best match ups that never came to fruition in mixed martial arts (MMA) history.
After so many title defenses and dominant performances throughout his run, the former Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Flyweight kingpin, Johnson, was getting stale in the mind of his boss, Dana White. In attempts to spice things up a bit, the promotion tried to get “Mighty Mouse” in a champion versus champion superfight with then-Bantamweight titleholder, Dillashaw.
“They did offer me the T.J. fight,” Johnson said on his YouTube channel. “I said absolutely, pay me one million dollars. Dana says no, I say okay. We go on forth. I fight Kyoji Horiguchi, I beat Kyoji Horiguchi. They circle back with this whole thing, I said, ‘Perfect.’ Matt Hume, which is my main coach, he came through and said, ‘Okay, this is what we’re gonna have in their contract. If T.J. Dillashaw does not make 125 pounds, we fight for his belt.’ They said no. Then they went on and said if I don’t take this fight, they’re gonna close the division. I said then close the motherf—king division.”
The consensus thought that began to spread was that Johnson was the one trying to avoid the match up, thanks to his requests. He went on to rematch Henry Cejudo in a losing effort at UFC 227 in Aug. 2018, parting ways with the promotion later that year. This led to Dillashaw eventually cutting down to 125 pounds for a clash with the new champ, Cejudo, in an unsuccessful effort (watch highlights).
The all-time great, Johnson, had no ill-will and doesn’t have any bad feelings to this day about the situation. Watching it all unfold from his position, however, he admits to once having curiosity about what was going on from the other side’s perspective.
“T.J., on the other hand, was gassing up, following the narrative trying to get this fight and with him doing that, I was like, okay,” Johnson said. “Then when I saw T.J. many years down the road in Disneyland after he popped for EPO (Erythropoietin), I walked up to him like a f—king man and said, ‘Dude. For one, how are you?’ — I saw him and his wife, I don’t believe they had their son there yet — ‘Hey, man, what’s up? Dude, why’d you say all those mean things about me?’ You can ask him that. I said, ‘I’ve always showed you nothing but respect.’ He says, ‘Ah, man, I was just trying to get a fight. I was just trying to push this narrative, get this fight.’ I said, ‘Well, that’s unfortunate.’ Then I asked him about his EPO and he came clean about that. He said, ‘You know what, I was just trying to make 125. I really wanted to do something different and I was willing to go to any lengths to make it.’ He also said his body was crashing and that’s when he started taking EPO.
“I don’t f—king lie, there’s no point in lying, I keep it real,” he concluded. “Always again, nothing but love for T.J. Dillashaw, but I did ask him why were you trying to do that?”
Johnson recently captured the ONE Championship 135 pound Flyweight crown two weeks ago (Aug. 26, 2022) at ONE on Prime Video 1, defeating Adriano Moraes via fourth round flying knee knockout (watch highlights). As for Dillashaw, he challenges UFC Bantamweight champion, Aljamain Sterling, on Oct. 22, 2022, in UFC 280’s co-main event.