The potential UFC 115 lightweight match-up between Evan Dunham and Tyson Griffin – both from the Xtreme Couture camp - has MMA’s spirited fan base once again weighing in on the topic of teammate vs. teammate.
As expected, reactions range from the pragmatic ('It’s their job to fight.') to the more provisional ('No way, unless it’s for a title or a title shot.'). Neither a title shot nor top-contender status is on the line for Dunham vs. Griffin, but UFC brass has nonetheless matched two training partners against one another, just like it has said it would.
As the debate over teammate vs. teammate continues to spiral off into its natural oblivion, I reached out to a few fighters – including Dunham and Dan Lauzon, who is set to face former training partner Efrain Escudero at UFC 114 - to get their thoughts about having to stand across the cage from a guy they usually have in their corner.
“Tyson [Griffin]’s a great guy, a great training partner, and a friend of mine, but we’re both in a business where we’re both trying to get as far as we can in the rankings. To hear that was a little disappointing, but I took it as a compliment because I have a lot of respect for Tyson, and to be paired up with him is bittersweet. I want to fight tough guys, but to fight your training partner is tough.
“I talked with him on the phone before either one of us signed, and we came to the conclusion that it is what it is, and we’ll be training partners and friends afterwards. So we’ll get in there and get paid for beating each other up – instead of just doing it in practice.
“This really hasn’t caused any problems at all because before we signed I told Tyson I’d be willing to go somewhere else and do my camp at a different camp. He’s been at Xtreme [Couture] longer, and he kinda helped bring me in, so I volunteered to get training somewhere else. But when the fight’s over, that next Monday, I plan on being right back at Randy’s.”
“Facing Efrain [Escudero] is going to be a little awkward, fighting my former training partner. I did three hard training camps with him. Two of the times it was me and him both getting ready for fights in RITC, the other was getting Drew Fickett ready for his fight with Kurt Pelligrino.
“We know so much about each other’s game. I feel my game has changed so much since we trained together and I feel his game has stepped up, in a sense he's gotten so much better at everything he does, but he still has that strong wrestling base.
“For some people it may be hard to punch a friend, for me, this is a sport, I train with my own brother on a regular basis and have no problem punching him in the mouth, so I won't have a problem punching Efrain. It's just going to be a little awkward, but I want to win and I know he wants to win. I know he's not going to be pulling any punches and neither will I.”
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