John Dodson fight? What John Dodson fight? Thatís the attitude TJ Dillashaw took following the first and only loss of his pro mixed martial arts career last December. For him, the key to being able to regroup and rebound is a simple one.

ďBeing a competitor, you gotta have a short-term memory,Ē said Dillashaw, who was stopped by Dodson in the first round of their battle for The Ultimate Fighter season 14 bantamweight title. ďIf you dwell on it for too long, itís gonna affect the way you train, affect your confidence, and you gotta draw it up for what it is and forget about it as soon as possible. I canít really put a time frame on it, but you canít dwell on it for too long.Ē

Yet if he canít pinpoint the exact date when he put the defeat to the side and began the road back, he certainly remembers when he told his team that he wanted to get back in the Octagon.

Immediately.

ďIt was definitely the first thing I said,Ē he recalled. ďI wasnít the one making the phone calls, but I told my manager that I wanted to fight as soon as possible and try to get this one behind me.Ē

Thus began the growing process that can either make or break a young fighter. A three-time Division I National wrestling qualifier for Cal State-Fullerton, Dillashawís post-college association with Urijah Faber and Team Alpha Male immediately put expectations on his shoulders and a target on his back when it came to MMA. And so far, the 26-year old has handled everything well, from his 4-0 run in local shows to his stint on TUF14, where he earned a spot in the finals with wins over Matt Jaggers, Roland Delorme, and Dustin Pague.

As for the loss to Dodson, it was just one of those things where a fighter gets caught with a good shot and itís game over. Some thought Dillashaw was the victim of an early hook by the referee, but a loss is a loss, and as far as defeats go, a quick KO can be easier to explain away and live with than a sustained three round beating.

ďI guess itís better for your confidence going into your next fight, but if Iím gonna lose to someone, Iíd like to really lose and know that I got beat by his talent and skills and not only by how quick I think it was called,Ē said Dillashaw. ďYes, he did catch me, and you saw that I lost my equilibrium there for a minute, but I donít think I was out of the fight yet. Itís part of the sport to continue through adversity and I just wanted to get that fair chance. It might not have even gone my way if I got the chance to come out of it, but for as long as I trained, at least give me that chance.Ē

For the moment, that chance has passed, but Dillashaw will get another one on Wednesday when he faces off with fellow prospect Walel Watson on the UFC on FUEL TV card in Omaha, Nebraska. In many ways, facing the Southern California striker is the perfect matchup for Dillashaw, because it will put him right back in the line of fire with an opponent intent on handing him a second knockout loss. What do you when you fall off a bike? You get right back on. Canít hit the curveball? Youíre going to get them served at you over and over until you prove you can handle it. Same thing here.

ďHeís a very good opponent for me, I think,Ē said Dillashaw. ďHeís a striker, but I donít think heís a very dangerous striker. Watching some tapes on him, I feel like he doesnít have the killer instinct in him. Heís got a lot of submission victories because he gets taken down Ė heís real long and lanky Ė but thatís not really gonna work on me. Iíve been training with guys that are his size in the same weight class. Weíve got Chris Holdsworth, a very good black belt at our gym who is 5-11 as well as a 135-pounder, and Iíve got three 145-pounders that are 5-11, so Iím getting used to the height, and theyíre all very good strikers at our gym. I feel like the guys that I practice with every day are gonna be even more dangerous than he is, and Iím gonna try to run right through him and make an example of him.Ē

But hereís the biggest difference between the TJ Dillashaw of last December and the one traveling to Omaha: he could have said Ďhey, I got caught; Iím just going to continue doing what Iím doing.í And he has continued to train with the Sacramento standouts from Team Alpha Male. But when the opportunity arose for him to work with renowned former Chute Boxe trainer Rafael Cordeiro at his Kings MMA gym, Dillashaw didnít hesitate to accept the offer. Talk about walking into the lionsí den.

ďI was definitely shy going in there because I knew who he (Cordeiro) was and all heís done,Ē said Dillashaw. ďBut when I got there, heís the most humble, nicest guy in the world, and heís an awesome trainer. He teaches great classes, and they can go very, very hard, which I was a little nervous about, but thatís the way we go at Team Alpha Male too, and it wasnít really over the top. They said, Ďif you want to get a good look at whatís gonna happen in a fight, you gotta go hard.í And Rafael does a very good job of instructing a class and teaching what you need to do.Ē

And by breaking out of his comfort zone, Dillashaw revealed his commitment to the game as he continues to lay the groundwork for what he hopes will be a future title run. Itís a scary proposition for his 135-pound peers, because youíve got to remember thatís heís only been doing this for a couple years, but it probably seems longer considering heís been working with Faber, Joseph Benavidez, Chad Mendes and the rest of a team that is among the most high-profile in the sport.

ďIím a little bit more well-known and been on TV and stuff, but Iím still very new to the game and Iím not gonna buy into all the pressure because Iíve been doing this for just about two years now,Ē he said. ďI feel like Iíve made great gains and Iím proud of everything Iím doing now, and I just want to continue to do that. Iíll put the pressure on myself and just realize that Iím gonna continue to get better, and as good as I have been doing in the last two years, I have all the room to grow, and Iíve got the team to do it.Ē

So is he ready for his return to the spotlight on Wednesday?

ďThis is where I want to be and what I want to do,Ē said Dillashaw. ďIím so excited to get the exposure and to be pumped up as fast as I have been, but Iíve got to take it as just another fight. I try to look at every fight as my toughest, and I gotta get through the adversity thatís put in front of me.Ē





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