The fight was so good, UFC president Dana White wanted to see it again.
At UFC 173 in May, T.J. Dillashaw scored a fifth-round knockout of Renan Barao, who hadn’t lost in almost a decade, to win the bantamweight championship.
“How awesome was that first fight?” White said on The Doug Gottlieb Show. “It was so good, especially being there live (at MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas). The place went crazy. Going into that fight, all the talk was (about how) Renan Barao hasn’t been beaten in almost 10 years. And now looking back on it, you can say, ‘Hey, anybody can have a bad night.’ Is that the case? Did Renan Barao have a bad night the last time they fought? Or is T.J. Dillashaw that much better than Barao?”
Unfortunately, we still don’t know the answer. Dillashaw and Barao were supposed to fight at UFC 177 at the Sleep Train Arena in Sacramento this past Saturday, but Barao (32-2) dropped out the day before the event after fainting while attempting to cut weight.
Instead, Dillashaw fought Joe Soto, scoring another fifth-round TKO. Soto, who was scheduled to make his UFC debut that night, agreed to replace Barao on short notice.
White later said that Barao would not be granted a title shot in his next bout but would have to work his way back into contention.
Dillashaw/Barao wasn’t the only great fight UFC fans have seen canceled or postponed recently; an epic fight between Jon Jones and Daniel Cormier has been moved from Sept. 27 to Jan. 3, as Jones was injured during training. Jones and Cormier also got into a fight at a promotional event in August.
“That was real, man,” White said. “We were in the lobby of the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. People were checking into their hotel rooms. You don’t do that stuff, you know what I mean? Those two have been playing a mental warfare game with each other since the day this fight was announced. You saw when they came in to stare down, Jon Jones butted heads with Cormier and that’s why Cormier pushed him the way that he did. My guy should have been in there breaking it up.”
“We have a code of conduct that guys have to follow,” White continued, “and you know you’re dealing with fighters. You’re going to have things that happen here and there, but . . . our guys are pretty good. Most of our guys are college-educated. They’re family guys. (But) you’re going to have some issues here and there.”
Not that that’s necessarily a bad thing. After all, dust-ups like the one between Jones and Cormier are part of the reason UFC has grown so much. When UFC began, White had roughly 25 fighters under contract; he now has roughly 500, including Ronda Rousey, whom White considers the biggest star in UFC – not the biggest women’s star in UFC, but the biggest star, period.
“No doubt about it,” White said. “Bringing the women in was the best decision I ever made.”