A strong contingent of family, friends and fans will make the two-hour trip to Sacramento to support UFC bantamweight champ and Angels Camp native TJ Dillashaw.
The 28-year-old Bret Harte Bullfrog graduate will defend his title on Aug. 30 against top contender Renan Barao in the main event at UFC 177: Dillashaw vs. Barao II at Sleep Train Arena.
Dillashaw fights out of and trains at Urijah Faber’s Ultimate Fitness in Sacramento and is a member of Team Alpha Male.
An expected group of 630 Dillashaw supporters, with the majority of them from Calaveras and Tuolumne counties, will be leaving on three different charter buses, including one from the Bret Harte campus, on Saturday at noon. Another bus will leave from Black Oak Casino and the other is departing from San Jose. A few are also taking along trailers for the championship bout.
“I’m excited about it,” Dillashaw said by phone Monday evening after practice. “It’s a great feeling to be able to fight at home. Everybody is going to be able to come to the fight, not only the fight, but for my first title defense. It’s a cool feeling and I’m really excited about it.
“Every time I fight and come home, I get a lot of support and love from my hometown. It doesn’t surprise me that everybody wants to go and I greatly appreciate it.”
There is also a large group driving individually or carpooling, and that’s not accounting for others from the two counties whom may be heading to the fight on their own.
Jody Jurgens, 26, of Angels Camp, a cousin of Dillashaw, organized the 600-plus group.
“At first, I initially thought maybe 100, and quickly realized that it was going up and up,” Jurgens said. “After TJ’s hometown celebration (in July), we had easily 150 people wanting to add on. I was not expecting 600. It probably could have been much higher if we had more time.”
Dillashaw’s hometown supporters will be seated in three sections: 107, 111-116 and 212. The group is also hosting a tailgate party on Lot M at the Sleep Train Arena parking lot.
“It is very cool,” Jurgens said. “We’re planning on having a tailgate party before the fight starts on Saturday. We have no idea how many people are going to show up. Everyone is getting very excited for it to happen, and we encourage people to bring food and drinks and join us. It will start at 2 (p.m.).
“I think having it there and having 600-plus people come just for him is very exciting and rewarding for his career.”
The highly anticipated Dillashaw-Barao rematch comes a little more than three months after Dillashaw shocked the UFC world by defeating the Brazilian on Memorial Day weekend in May.
In that fight, Barao entered the bout without a loss in nearly a decade, but was topped by Dillashaw in the fifth round by technical knockout at UFC 173 in Las Vegas.
It was Barao’s first defeat since his professional mixed martial arts debut in 2005.
Dillashaw has won two fights this year since losing to Raphael Assuncao last October.
In the 5-foot-6, 135-pounder’s last California outing in April 2013, the Team Alpha Male star dominated Brazilian Hugo Viana with a first-round TKO in San Jose.
Dillashaw had over 70 friends and family members watch that victory, and the hometown support will be there again in full swing when he enters the Octagon on Saturday.
“I got a lot of support there,” Dillashaw said. “I was surprised at how many people went to the San Jose fight too. It’s really great, but now I really get to fight at home. I’m excited to have everyone watch me and show off all the skills that I have learned.”
Weekly Arts and entertainment guide for Calaveras and Tuolumne counties