Top 5 Former Teammates Who Turned Opponents in the UFC

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T.J. Dillashaw, right, kicks Cody Garbrandt during their UFC title bantamweight mixed martial arts bout at UFC 227.
(AP Photo/Chris Carlson)
Anatoly Pimentel @AnatolyPimentel Oct 27, 2022, 8:58 PM
  • Here are the top five teammates turned opponents in the UFC.
  • T.J. Dillashaw and Cody Garbrandt lead the list.

The UFC odds for teammates to fight each other inside the Octagon is slim, and there are only two reasons behind it: bad blood between them or title contention. Regardless, this is an exciting addition to MMA fight odds that fans place their bets on BetMGM, the leading online sportsbook. However, only some fighters are willing to fight their teammate for a title triumph.

Title contention is the dominant reason former sparring mates at world-class gyms and teams parade the best fighters from certain divisions. Bad blood is not far behind as conflict brews and boils within the team due to different causes. Today, I list the top five teammates who turned opponents in the UFC and how the fight panned out.

Top 5 Former Teammates Who Turned Opponents in the UFC

T.J. Dillashaw and Cody Garbrandt

Remember when Conor McGregor and Uriah Faber were the coaches of The Ultimate Fighter in 2015, and the “Notorious” accused T.J. Dillashaw, one of Faber’s teammates in Team Alpha Male, of stabbing his back? It was the 22nd season of The Ultimate Fighter which aired from September to December 2015. 

It turns out McGregor was correct after all because Dillashaw had training sessions with former Team Alpha Male coach Duane Ludwig. Because of this, the whole Team Alpha Male developed hate towards Dillashaw, including his former sparring mate, Cody Garbrandt. Dillashaw and Garbrandt are both fighters competing in UFC’s bantamweight division so their match was bound to happen at some point.

The pair would eventually meet in a UFC Bantamweight Title match in November 2017, where Garbrandt was the champion then, and Dillashaw was the challenger. The former Team Alpha Male star slayed the champion with a second-round TKO victory to snatch away the title from “No Love.” Nine months later, they once again faced each other in a title rematch, but Dillashaw reasserted his mastery over Garbrandt with a first-round knockout win.

Jorge Masvidal and Colby Covington

Former brothers and American Top Team teammates Jorge Masvidal and Colby Covington finally fought each other in March 2022, where the former UFC Interim Welterweight Champion emerged as the winner of the grudge match via a lopsided unanimous decision victory. The root of the animosity between the top 170-pound contenders was unknown, but they have their own versions of the story.

According to “Chaos,” Masvidal was jealous and bitter about his success because he won the interim UFC Welterweight Title over Rafael Dos Anjos in June 2018. Additionally, he claimed that money and fame got to his head. During this period, Covington was also starting to transition to his bad guy or villain persona which made him one of the most controversial fighters in the roster. 

Meanwhile, “Gamebred” stated that Covington didn’t pay their coach after winning the interim title and ripped him off, which is why he was kicked out of the American Top Team gym, and members of it were furious with him. Regardless of the reason, the two haven’t fixed their relationship yet and still resent each other. This past March, Masvidal even attacked Covington in Miami that left the former interim champ with minor bruises.

Kamaru Usman and Gilbert Burns

Another pair of former welterweight teammates faced each other inside the Octagon as Gilbert Burns challenged Kamaru Usman for the title in February 2021. Usman, though, scored a third-round TKO win over Burns, who at that time was on a four-fight winning streak. The former number one pound-for-pound king weathered an early scare from Burns to retain his title.  

It was the “Nigerian Nightmare’s” third title defense since winning the title from Tyron Woodley in March 2019. The two were former teammates at Sanford MMA in Florida. The Brazilian contender previously competed in the lightweight division but because of weight cutting, he was forced to move up to the welterweight division.

Unlike Covington and Masvidal, there was no bad blood or animosity between Usman and Burns because the UFC had no choice but to book the two best fighters in the 170-pound division for the undisputed title. Kamaru Usman voluntarily left the gym to train under Trevor Wittman to build up this championship showdown. Under coach Wittman, Usman became teammates with former UFC Women’s Strawweight Champion Rose Namajunas and former UFC Interim Lightweight Champion Justin Gaethje. 

After they faced each other, they remained good friends, but Usman stayed under the tutelage of Wittman. They are even spotted hanging together during UFC events and support each other whenever either of them is competing inside the Octagon.

Jon Jones and Rashad Evans

Jackson-Winkeljohn MMA was home to two of the best light heavyweight fighters in the world during the early 2010s, as Rashad Evans and Jon Jones represented the team well in the UFC. Evans was the veteran figure in the team, while Jones was the up-and-coming youngster who has a huge potential. 

Even before Jones joined the gym, they already had a champion in Evans, who defeated Forrest Griffin in December 2008 via third-round TKO. The beef between Jones and Evans began when “Bones” stepped in as a replacement for “Suga” against Mauricio Rua for the title in March 2011. Evans was forced to withdraw to the fight with Rua because of an injury.

Jones destroyed Rua and became the youngest champion in UFC history. “Bones” defended his title twice over Quinton Jackson and Lyoto Machida before setting up an inevitable showdown with Evans, and the pair finally settled their differences inside the Octagon in April 2012, where Jones successfully defended his title against Evans with a dominant unanimous decision victory.

After this bout, they never talked to each other in three years but eventually repaired their relationship in 2014 as Jones publicly stated that he missed his role model. Today, Jones is expected to make his most anticipated return to action in the heavyweight division, while Evans signed with Eagle Fighting Championship and won his debut match in January 2022.

Chuck Liddell and Tito Ortiz

The original fighters who were former teammates and fought each other were Chuck Liddell and Tito Ortiz. The Iceman first saw action under the promotion in May 1998 for UFC 17, while the “People’s Champ” made his UFC debut in May 1997 for UFC 13. Liddell though simultaneously fought in other MMA organizations. 

Both were training partners and friends as both of them were managed by Dana White, who at that time was not yet the president of the UFC. But because of their respective winning streaks and dominance in the light heavyweight division, their encounter inside the Octagon was unavoidable given the circumstances of the early situation of the Las Vegas-based promotion at that time.

Tito Ortiz was fresh off a failed title defense against Randy Couture when he fought Chuck Liddell in April 2004. The “Iceman” was too much to handle for the “People’s Champ” as he suffered a second-round knockout. Liddell only needed 38 seconds in the second round to put him to sleep and begin his title quest. 

This win set the path for Liddell to become the UFC Light Heavyweight Champion, and when the two had a rematch in December 2006, it was for the championship. But Liddell again finished Ortiz in the third round with a TKO stoppage victory. The relationship of the two former sparring partners is still not in good terms, but Liddell said that he still wishes Ortiz the best in his endeavor in life. 

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About the Author

Anatoly Pimentel

Read More @AnatolyPimentel

Anatoly Pimentel is an NBA and MMA writer previously featured in ASEAN Sports, Asian Persuasion MMA, and Overtime Heroics MMA. He graduated from Adamson University with B.A in Communication and is currently a Web Content Writer for BetMGM.

Anatoly Pimentel is an NBA and MMA writer previously featured in ASEAN Sports, Asian Persuasion MMA, and Overtime Heroics MMA. He graduated from Adamson University with B.A in Communication and is currently a Web Content Writer for BetMGM.