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Angels champ: Hundreds gather to meet UFC title-belt holder

Vongni Yang / Union Democrat Isaac Hudson, 6, of Sonora, waits anxiously as UFC bantamweight champion TJ Dillashaw signs his poster and picture on Sunday at the Bret Harte High School multi-purpose room in Angels Camp. Dillashaw’s UFC bantamweight championship belt was on display (below) at the event. The former Bullfrog standout (bottom) holds his proclamation during Angels Camp mayor Elaine Morris’ speech at the Bret Harte theater.
About an hour before TJ Dillashaw was scheduled to be honored by the city of Angels Camp at Bret Harte High School, the UFC bantamweight titleholder was out on the family compound squeezing in a workout.

The former Bret Harte wrestling standout takes no days off, even when his hometown holds a community celebration for his achievements in the Octagon.

And it’s that type of commitment and work ethic that makes Dillashaw a champion.

 “Dedication, hard work, (he’s) always had them,” said former Bullfrog wrestling coach Jan Schulz. “Running the hills, coming into early morning practices, if you’re any young guys out there, if you’re going to be a wrestler, you’ve got to dedicate yourself and TJ has always done that.”

Family, friends and fans got an opportunity to watch the Dillashaw win over Renan Barao from May 24 in a special screening at the Bret Harte theater before former coaches Schulz, Nate Vader, Angels Camp mayor Elaine Morris and Calaveras County supervisor Debbie Ponte shared a moment with Dillashaw.

With a proclamation in tow, Morris declared Sunday, July 20, 2014 TJ Dillashaw Day.

“I invite all Angels Camp citizens to join me and recognizing, congratulating TJ Dillashaw as a UFC bantamweight champion,” Morris said.

Ponte said a resolution honoring Dillashaw was forthcoming, but handed over a piece of art — a Brazilian quartz — to the 28-year-old mixed martial artist.

“What the quartz is representing is that it’s enhancing the energy,” Ponte said. “It’s absorbing, storing, amplifying, balancing, focusing and transmitting energy, and you have strongly shown that. Physically the quartz is a powerful stone, which represents what you did to that guy in Brazil and what you will do again. Congratulations.”

Dillashaw, a 2004 Bret Harte graduate, went 170-33 during his four-year career wrestling under Schulz and Vader. He was a four-time Sac-Joaquin Section Masters qualifier and placed twice at the CIF State Tournament, including a runner-up finish as a senior.

“I feel so much pride and honor to have ever worked with TJ,” Vader said. “From day one, he was already a tremendous wrestler. To see that he never wanted to settle, he never wanted to say, ‘OK, I’m good, I’m great, I don’t need to advance any further.’ He soaked up every bit of knowledge I had to teach him.

“One of my favorite things about TJ is he’s humble. He doesn’t need to get up and talk about how bad he is, how much he wants it, or this and that.”

After the screening and speeches, fans flocked to the multi-purpose room for an autograph and photo session with the champ. 

The Team Alpha Male star signed hundreds of memorabilia, which lasted a little more than two hours.

“It’s amazing,” Dillashaw said. “It’s cool to see how excited everyone got just to watch the fight — let alone — come to meet me and wait in line for a couple of hours to get an autograph and a picture. That’s pretty cool. It’s cool that it means a lot to everyone back home.”

A three-person film crew was on hand to document Dillashaw and his homecoming celebration. Producer John De Leon said the one-hour documentary featuring the Angels Camp native will air on Fox Sports 1 sometime between Aug. 15-23.

Dillashaw will defend his UFC bantamweight championship on Aug. 30 when he faces the former titleholder in Dillashaw vs. Barao II in front of an expected hometown crowd at Sleep Train Arena in Sacramento.

“I’m not going to be able to hear anything,” Dillashaw said. “Sleep Train Arena is going to be so loud. It’s going to be cool.”

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