As promised, Calaveras County showed up to support the local sports hero.
T.J. Dillashaw’s wife, Rebecca, said during Thursday’s media day that she wouldn’t be surprised if the whole town of Angels Camp showed up to her husband’s UFC Bantamweight title fight Saturday at Sleep Train Arena in Sacramento. And she was close, as hundreds of fans from Angels Camp, Sonora and Tuolumne made the trek to Sacramento. More than 400 showed up for the pre-fight tailgate party, which was held in the arena’s north parking lot surrounded by chartered buses.
One of the organizers of the caravan was Dillashaw’s aunt, Laurie Jenkins, and she said some were disappointed about the late change from former champion Renan Barao to little-known Joe Soto. But it was not going to spoil the fun of watching him defend the world title.
“I think a lot of people are disappointed because this was a chance for T.J to prove the first time wasn’t a fluke,” Jenkins said. “But we’re here to see T.J., not root against the other fighter.”
Dillashaw said he was thrilled by the support, and that his father donated three kegs of beer to the tailgate party.
Here’s some notes and comments from UFC 177:
* Dillashaw and Soto both got what they needed from the fight. It was a tough spot for Dillashaw, who was expected to dominate but had no time to prepare for his opponent. He won every round, but needed a big finish and got it with a KO via a nasty kick to the head in the fifth round. He looked like a champ. Soto hung with the best in his division, and will undoubtedly get a nice follow-up date, probably with a Top 10 contender.
* Dillashaw’s coach Duane Ludwig, was fine with his protege’s more conservative strategy early in the fight. “We didn’t prepare for Soto, we felt him out for a little while,” Ludwig said.
* It’s shocking how fast Renan Barao’s stock has fallen since facing Dillashaw in May. He went from having a nine-year undefeated streak to getting dominated by Dillashaw, losing his belt and pulling out of Saturday’s event on Friday because he passed out while trying to cut weight. His automatic rematch is gone, he didn’t get paid, and UFC president Dana White is demanding he move up in weight or find a new nutritionist. Or both.
* There’s already plenty of talk about Dillashaw’s next opponent. After two title fights in three months, his first though should be getting a little rest. It’s unlikely he fights again this year.
* Some numbers from UFC 177: The attendance was 11,100, with a house of $700,000. White said there were 130 refunds, not bad at all after the change in the main event. Dillashaw and lightweight Yancy Medeiros, who submitted Damon Jackson in the second round, were named fighters of the night and each earned a $50,000 bonus. Medeiros trains at the Gracie Fight Center in Lodi, and he and the other four winners on the main card — Dillashaw, Diego Ferrera, Tony Ferguson and Bethe Correia — also won a new Harley Davidson motorcycle.