TJ Dillashaw campaigned long and hard for a fight with fellow, UFC champ Demetrious Johnson, only to see it not come through. Now he’s taking on Cody Garbrandt once again, in a bout he believes was his next biggest option. Is he right?

Dillashaw started calling for a fight with Johnson last year, but at the time, the flyweight king argued that TJ needed to defeat a top 125’er, before challenging for the belt. Eventually, however, Johnson changed his mind, and said he’d be down to fight Dillashaw, provided it was booked on a stacked card. 

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Well, as you know, that fight hasn’t been booked. Instead. Dillashaw is set to take on Garbrandt for a second time, August 4th at UFC 227. It will mark the first time Dillashaw has fought, since he took out his former teammate and rival at UFC 217 last November, and secured the bantamweight title.

Recently Dillashaw met with the media, and when asked why a fight with Johnson isn’t happening, the champ said this (quote via MMA Fighting):

“I don’t really know,” Dillashaw said. “I think that’s a good question for Demetrious Johnson. Maybe he wanted some guaranteed money. Maybe he wasn’t willing to gamble on himself on the pay-per-view numbers. But as far as I was concerned, the fans wanted it, the UFC wanted it. Everyone knows I wanted it. I respect Demetrious Johnson as a person and as an athlete and that’s kind of why I was chasing him down. He’s got that target on his back. He’s got that pound-for-pound spot that I want to come in and take. Not only to make the big bucks on a big fight, but for the legacy. Chasing that spot down. So really I think it’s a question for him why it didn’t really happen.”

“I was chasing that Demetrious Johnson fight,” Dillashaw said. “It just really didn’t seem like it wanted to work itself out. So I feel like the next biggest, hyped up fight was Cody. The one that kind of made the most sense for the attention. There was a lot of drama behind it, so run it back.”

Now, considering Johnson has talked about his desire to receive a significant bump in pay, in order to take super fights, it could very well be that’s why the bout isn’t happening. But, are Dillashaw’s comments about the Garbrandt rematch on point? In terms of it being the next best option?

It’s an interesting question. As it stands right now, there doesn’t seem to be a ton of buzz behind this fight. After all, neither man has fought since their first encounter, and Dillashaw won the bout in the second round. One could certainly argue, however, that a big reason not too many are discussing the bout yet, is because UFC 226 is right around the corner.

While it’s not clear yet whether much ‘hype’ will build for  Dillashaw – Garbrandt II, the UFC didn’t really have many alternatives to go with. One of the more compelling options would be Dillashaw – Cruz II, as the latter defeated TJ back in 2016. But the former champ has been sidelined with injuries, and Cruz has yet to fight, since he was defeated by Garbrandt.

If the UFC had held off on booking Dillashaw’s next fight, then, Marlon Moraes would have made for an intriguing bout. After all, the latter just took out fellow, top contender Jimmie Rivera in short order. Before that he KO’d Aljamain Sterling.

But, with the UFC’s busy schedule, and the need to book main events for each card, waiting is not a luxury the promotion often has.