TJ Dillashaw remains dead set on meeting Demetrious Johnson in a champion vs. champion bout. He just needs the time to get his weight down.
Speaking recently with ESPN's Brett Okamoto, the reigning UFC bantamweight champion said were it not for his two split-decision losses to Raphael Assuncao and Dominick Cruz, he'd have joined his flyweight counterpart in the discussion regarding the sport's pound-for-pound best. He aims to right that wrong by besting a long-indomitable titleholder in Johnson this year.
"I'm looking to come in and dethrone him from his legacy," Dillashaw said. "He won't be able to call himself the 'GOAT' anymore.
"It's so easy for him to continue calling himself that and take the fights he thinks are a little easier. He's a cerebral fighter. He and his coach are smart guys, and they know I bring the greatest threat. I think he knows that's going to be a tough one for him to win."
Johnson has publicly doubted whether Dillashaw - a career bantamweight - could successfully make the 125-pound mark required to challenge him, but the 135-pound king told Okamoto he could conquer the scale with 16 weeks to prepare.
The 31-year-old began campaigning for the marquee matchup months before he reclaimed the bantamweight crown with a second-round knockout of Cody Garbrandt at UFC 217, but Johnson's recent dispute with the promotion over compensation scrapped Dillashaw's designs. With the gold around his waist once more and Johnson now owning the UFC's record for title defenses, Dillashaw maintains there's no time like the present to heed growing demand and put pen to paper.
"That's what I'm hearing from fans and journalists. They believe me fighting Johnson is not only the most-hyped fight for 2018, but the most talented."
The flyweight king's purview has never been the UFC's deepest weight class, with Johnson capping his always dominant showings with late finishes on more than one occasion. Dillashaw promises that won't be the case if and when they share the Octagon.
"On average, there aren't those guys who will bring everything in that weight class. They don't have the power, footwork, cardio, and wrestling I have. I don't have a gap that Demetrious can take advantage of.
"When you see him manhandle guys and finish fights late in championship rounds - outgrapple them - he's not going to be able to do that to me. And I think that's a scary thing to him, that he doesn't have something to fall back on."
UFC president Dana White echoed Dillashaw's interest in the lighter-weight superfight immediately after UFC 217, although he has yet to follow through on it.