TJ Dillashaw turned down tune-up fights: ‘It was a waste of time’

Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Some have questioned TJ Dillashaw’s decision to return from a two-year suspension and face second-ranked Ultimate Fighting Championship bantamweight star Cory Sandhagen. However, the former two-time division, and one-half of the UFC Vegas 32 main event, recently revealed that he was offered a “tune-up” fight against lower-ranked opposition. But he passed on those offers feeling they would be a waste of his time.

TJ Dillashaw took a pass on tune-up fights in lead up to UFC Vegas 32

In an interview with ESPN, Dillashaw, 35, was asked about the idea of fighters having tune-up bouts following long breaks from competition. The notion is not one the Californian subscribes to, and outside of an extra payday, Dillashaw sees little reward in contenders fighting in tune-up bookings.

“I turned down tune-up fights. I didn’t want it. It was a waste of time,” Dillashaw said. “Maybe [It’ll] help out your wallet. Make some quick cash in the end, but you can’t think of any fight as a tune-up fight. I don’t care if I’m going in there against a guy who’s debuting. You’ve got to treat it like it’s a title fight. Treat every fight like it’s the biggest fight in the world. Everyone’s always like, ‘what’s your biggest fight?’ The next fight’s always your biggest fight. I don’t care who it is.

[In] the sport of MMA, anything can happen. You’ve got these little four-ounce gloves on, you get hit in the right spot at the right time; you’ve got to go in there and treat every fight like it’s a title fight. When I look passed people, and I’m a huge favorite, that’s when I get in trouble. When I went out there and just thought I was going to run through Henry Cejudo, he came out aggressive. Those are the times I get in trouble. I’ve got to go into fights scared.”

Ring rust won’t be a concern for Dillashaw on Saturday night

Tune-up fights are used as a way to navigate ring-rust. Ring rust is a concern for fighters and their teams after long breaks from high-level competition and training. Although Dillashaw believes ring rust is real, he also feels it can be avoided by staying active in the gym and training against top talent consistently. It’s something he feels he’s done over the last two years, so if he doesn’t have ring rust, he definitely doesn’t need a tune up fight.

“I think it’s a real thing if you don’t put in the time. If I just took these two and half years off and decided to jump in to an eight to 10 week camp, yea I’d probably have some ring rust,” said Dillashaw. “But I’d say the most time I had off was during those shoulder surgeries. Other than that, I’ve been grinding in the gym. I’ve been helping Juan [Archuleta] get ready, I’ve been helping these other fighters get ready and now, I’ve had the longest camp of my life.

I thought I was going to be fighting at the beginning of the year, because that’s when my suspension was up. So I started training pretty hard at the end of 2020. Fight didn’t get booked until the end of May, and then that got pushed back because I cut my eyebrow 15 days before the fight.”

UFC Vegas 32 takes place on July 24, inside Las Vegas, Nevada’s UFC Apex. The event will be simulcasted on ESPN and streaming service ESPN+. The card kicks off at 4 pm ET with preliminary action, with the main card portion of the event following at 7 pm ET.

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