T.J. Dillshaw discusses reaching the finals of The Ultimate Fighter 14
Heavy.com: Tonight’s episode featured your fight against Team Miller’s Dustin Pague. Was Dustin as nice of a guy as they played him up to be on this episode?
T.J. Dillashaw: Dustin is a really nice guy; by far the nicest guy in the house. He was always polite, never bad mouthed anyone and was a really good guy to be around.
Heavy.com: Every year Dana White selects a “Coach’s Challenge” for the two opposing coaches to square off. This season’s game was air hockey. What were your thoughts on the game choice?
T.J. Dillashaw: I was really stoked it was air hockey because if it had anything to do with cardio, I don’t know if Bisping would have done that great. He was out of shape while he was on the season. I’m not saying Mayhem was in shape either, but Bisping was a little bit heavier and a bit out of shape so I was glad it was a game that took skill but not cardio.
Heavy.com: It probably didn’t feel too bad to earn some extra money.
T.J. Dillashaw: That was the best part man. We were rooting him on the entire time. We walked away with $1,500 per person and he won $10,000. It was really cool.
Heavy.com: The Coach’s Challenge presented an opportunity to take a break from training and the house for a bit. How much did a moment like that mean when you are in the middle of TUF competition?
T.J. Dillashaw: It was nice. We didn’t get much time out of the gym or house so when we got the chance to do something new, it was cool. It was nice to be outside and it was definitely a change of pace.
Heavy.com: You had a completely dominant win over Dustin. Were you happy with your overall performance in the fight?
T.J. Dillashaw: I was happy with my performance. It was slower than the other two fights I had but I knew if I didn’t finish him it was going to be a three round fight. My ground and pound was a little more controlled this time and I wouldn’t let him stand up. I noticed in my previous fights that I was going 100 mph and left some room for my opponents to stand up. For this fight I wanted to keep the fight where I was most dominant, be more controlled with my ground and pound, and keep him on his back. He did a really good job of staying in his guard. I passed his guard, attempted to go for submissions and better ground and pound, but he was able to get it back every time.
I was actually very happy with my stand up as well. I was able to out-strike a kick boxer. Dana White even said it and that was great to hear come out of his mouth. He said people can’t just look at me as a wrestler because my stand up is good as well. I owe all the progress in my striking to Master Thong. He brought me up from nothing. He brought me up really fast and now I’m competing with the best in our gym. He’s worked with me every day and I owe it all to him.
Heavy.com: One of the most noticeable aspects of your fights has been your ability to take direction in the heat of battle. Is that something that comes naturally to you?
T.J. Dillashaw: I credit all of my years in wrestling. I competed in wrestling for 17 years and you get used to someone yelling at you and telling you what to do. You have to be able to make changes in the middle of the action. Then you have a little bit of time in between rounds to listen and make adjustments. It is very similar to fighting and I think I’ve adapted well. It is all I’ve ever done. My entire life, my job has been to compete.
Heavy.com: On tonight’s episode you said the fight with Dustin was just another fight and that you’ve had big fights and competitions before this. With that being said, do you feel the same way heading into the finals?
T.J. Dillashaw: I always feel like your next fight is always your biggest fight. The reason you’ve reached that next fight is due to what you’ve done in your past to get there. Especially for me because I haven’t lost a fight so the next one coming up is going to be the biggest. It’s going to be my next stepping stone for me to get that belt.