When a sport is organized properly, the very best athletes compete against each other. It would be unthinkable if members of the Seahawks announced that they practiced with the Broncos and didn't want to compete in the SuperBowl.
In MMA however the top fighters in a weight division often train together at the same gym, develop close ties, and announce they will not fight. Jon Jones said he wouldn't fight then Jackson MMA teammate Rashad Evans, who now won't fight fellow Blackzilians Anthony Johnson or Vitor Belfort. Team Alpha Male founder Urijah Faber recently said it would take one billion dollars to fight UFC bantamweight champion T.J. Dillashaw.
Fans often understand and applaud the principled stand of teammates refusing to fight each other. But UFC president Dana White has a different perspective, as his job is matching up the world's best fighters.
Dillashaw beat Joe Soto in an exciting fight Saturday night at UFC 177, and the league has to determine his next challenger. Barao fainted and was hospitalized trying to make weight on Saturday, and will not receive the reward of an immediate title shot. Raphael Assuncao absolutely has earned a shot. Dominick Cruz may get a shot if he beats Takeya Mizugaki at UFC 178. Mizugaki too might get a shot with a win, but although his last five fights were all wins, all were decisions, two of them split, which does not show the kind of divisional dominance that usually precedes a title shot. By contrast, Assuncao is on a six-fight win streak, and the only split decision on his record in that time is a win over Dillashaw.
And then there is Faber. At the UFC 177 post-fight media scrum, White said that Faber would take a fight with Dillashaw - for less than a billion dollars - and that Dillashaw would take the fight.
“I think that when you have a team, it’s no different than Georges St-Pierre and Rory MacDonald,” said White as transcribed by MMAJunkie. “When you have guys who are part of a team, they train together. Tonight when they win, they’re all excited for each other. Their families are here. You don’t run around saying, ‘I’ll fight him tomorrow; I want his belt,’ and all this stuff.
“Everybody believes they can beat each other in the back of their minds because they all train together. But when it comes down to it, Faber would 100 percent fight him for way less than a billion dollars, and T.J. would fight him. It’s like Rory MacDonald is in GSP’s house, meaning his gym and everything. He’s not going to run around saying, ‘Yeah, I want GSP for the belt.’ There’s a time and place and a way to do that. You’re never going to hear guys say it publicly. They would never do that.”
“Faber’s got to be in a position to fight for the title. You know what I mean? He’s got to go in there and beat somebody and be in a position to fight for the title.
“And if he is, I promise you he will do it. I know he will, and I know T.J. will fight him too.”