Urijah Faber and Chad Mendes may be the biggest stars of Team Alpha Male right now, but it’s their training partner, T.J. Dillashaw, who looks to continue their legacy. He has all the tools to be a major player in the UFC bantamweight division. He’ll look to prove it when he steps back in the Octagon against Mike Easton at UFC Fight Night 35.

Easton had quite a bit of hype surrounding him given his pedigree and prior UFC performances, but has since floundered to two straight losses. Dillashaw knows the feeling. He saw some of his own hype fade after a loss to Raphael Assuncao.

Dillashaw works for a takedown (Esther Lin/MMA Fighting)

Dillashaw works for a takedown (Esther Lin/MMA Fighting)

“I was mad about the fight,” Dillashaw told The MMA Corner in an exclusive interview. “I thought I won the fight, and it seems like a lot of other people did.”

You either win or you learn—it’s a common philosophy throughout all sports. Dillashaw seems to have taken that to heart after the Assuncao loss.

“It kind of hit home to me,” Dillashaw said. “I really learned not to leave it in the hands of the judges, because you’re not going to like what you hear.”

Not leaving it in the hands of the judges is something Team Alpha Male as a whole seems to have improved on as of late. Since joining the team as the head coach, Duane “Bang” Ludwig has been credited with taking a team of elite talents and somehow managing to take them to an even higher level.

“He is a technical genius,” Dillashaw said. “He’s been a student of the game forever. He doesn’t change what I do best, he just adds to my game.”

What Dillashaw does best undoubtedly is grapple. He has a long history of competing on the wrestling mats and holds three submission victories thus far in his career. The level of conditioning we’ve come to expect from wrestlers seemed to fail Dillashaw in his contest with Assuncao. He started the contest off by winning the first round, but his offense faded as the fight wore on.

“Conditioning wasn’t an issue for me,” Dillashaw explained. “I came out slow in the second, and I think he won that round. But I felt I pushed the pace more in the third and made the mistake of thinking I was up on the scorecards. I just need to always keep pushing the pace.”

With his roster spot potentially on the line against Dillashaw, Easton would like to be aggressive as well. Still, Dillashaw’s confidence remains steadfast.

Dillashaw (Esther Lin/MMA Fighting)

Dillashaw (Esther Lin/MMA Fighting)

“Easton is a very technical opponent and he’s still top 10,” Dillashaw said. “He’s a tough guy, but he’s kind of predictable. He does a lot of the same things.”

With a win over Easton, Dillashaw will likely find himself up towards the top of the bantamweight rankings. Also occupying a spot near the top is his teammate, “The California Kid.” Faber would be the bantamweight title holder after UFC 169 if he can defeat Renan Barao in the main event.

The prospect of teammates fighting each other has come up in recent years with the evolution of “super camps” featuring a number of high-profile fighters under the same roof. Dillashaw could soon face the prospect of being paired up against his teammate.

“It’s something we’ve discussed in the gym, but we have no plans of facing one another,” Dillashaw said. “The only way it’d come up is if it were for a title.”

The two teammates will certainly deal with that possibility if it arises. For now, though, the young Dillashaw simply looks forward to big things for him in 2014.

“I want to continue to be a better martial artist, and I want to be knocking on the door of a title shot,” Dillashaw said.

With the fighters at Team Alpha Male proving that iron sharpens iron, Dillashaw may be a lot closer to a title shot than he realizes.

T.J. would like to thank Team Alpha Male, his coaches, TapouT, Mobile Money, Onnit and Livia Global. Follow Dillashaw on Twitter: @TJDillashaw

About The Author

Kyle Symes
Staff Writer

Kyle is a recent graduate of Aurora University, where he obtained a Bachelor's in Communications. Kyle resides in Illinois, just outside of Chicago. He played baseball and football in both high school and college, but is now focusing on an amateur MMA career.