On Sunday, T.J. Dillashaw will ship up to Boston to put his UFC Bantamweight Championship (135 lbs.) on the line against challenger Dominick Cruz. If he's victorious over Cruz, Dillashaw has his eyes set on a much taller challenge: UFC mega-name Conor McGregor.
Dillashaw talks to ThePostGame about his upcoming fights, Ronda Rousey's effect on the men's side of the sport and being an Oakland Raiders fan.
ThePostGame: How are you feeling going into this fight?
T.J. DILLASHAW: Feeling good, feeling confident and very excited.
TPG: What do you know about Cruz? He's on an 11-match winning streak. Does that make you stressed?
DILLASHAW: No, not at all. Renan Barão was on one of the longest winning streaks in history. That guy was undefeated for nine years in 32 fights. This doesn't compare to that. Cruz is a great fighter and I'm excited to prove myself.
TPG: This fight is in Boston. Does that factor into anything?
DILLASHAW: No, not at all. I'm excited to fight in Boston. I've heard it's a great city. I only got to see it really quickly on a media tour, so I'm excited to fight and get it out of the way and enjoy the city a bit.
TPG: We've seen UFC really grow in the past decade. Did you expect to have the celebrity status you have today?
DILLASHAW: I knew the sport was growing really rapidly. I was on season 14 of The Ultimate Fighter. The goal was to be a champion. I kind of prepared myself mentally before I even got here.
TPG: I don't want to reveal anything to Cruz, but what would you consider your signature move?
DILLASHAW: I don't really have one signature move. I would say keeping my opponent guessing is one of my strengths. It's about wrestling and kickboxing. I'm always trying to mix that up.
TPG: What advice would you give someone trying to get into UFC now?
DILLASHAW: I think learning how to wrestle and learning how to compete as a fighter. Being a wrestler and learning how to take the fight where I want to helps me.
TPG: What other sports did you play before you dug into MMA?
DILLASHAW: I wrestled most of my life, since third grade. Growing up, I pretty much played every sport you can think of except for basketball because they were in the same season. Once I got to high school, I quit all other sports and solely focused on wrestling because I knew that was what I was best at and I had my best chance at getting a scholarship to school. And I did, at Cal State Fullerton.
TPG: You want to fight Conor McGregor. He's changing weight classes. Why do you want to fight him so bad and will you make it happen?
DILLASHAW: I mean he's going up to 155 now. Maybe we can fight if he goes to 145 again. That all started from the beginning when he started talking crap about me changing teams and following my coach to Colorado. To be a thing, it seems like after everyone wins, they have to call out Conor McGregor to get some hype behind it. That's not why I want to fight him. I want to fight him just because of how much trash he's talking.
TPG: So you need him to go to 145?
DILLASHAW: He's a big 145, going to 155. If he goes back to 145, I can fight him. There's no way I'm going up to 155.
TPG: Do you feel like you need a signature win over someone like McGregor to have a legacy in your sport?
DILLASHAW: No, I feel like I need to perform the way I've been doing and not do it in dramatic fashion. I have a very tough weight class of my own, and holding down that weight class, alone, is going to be a big feat. I just have to keep performing and having fun. I'm in the middle of creating my legacy right now.
TPG: If you could fight any fighter, past or present, in UFC, who would it be?
DILLASHAW: That's tough. You have to shoot for one of the greatest of all-time. That's Georges St-Pierre. Not because of a vendetta, just because I think he's the greatest and a professional and the best at what he does.
TPG: Coming up, did you have a fighter you tried to emulate?
DILLASHAW: Not necessarily. You just see good fighters and try to pick apart what you can. You have to create your own style. You can't be the exact same fighter.
TPG: Why should a UFC fan in the arena on Sunday root for you?
DILLASHAW: The fact they should know I'll have an entertaining fight and I'm breaking records. My fights are action packed. I'm never getting tired.
TPG: You're an Oakland Raiders fan. How difficult has that been?
DILLASHAW: I like that. 'You're an Oakland Raiders fan.' Though … I've been an Oakland Raiders fan my whole life. They looked pretty good this year. I'm pumped by how Derek Carr played. You can't always be a frontrunner and a fan of the best team.
TPG: How long would it take you to train and make an NFL team?
DILLASHAW: (Laughs) It'd be impossible. I'm way too small. I don't think a 150-pound guy should be going against grown NFL players.
TPG: Did you play football in high school?
DILLASHAW: I played my freshman year. I did a good job, but that was when I knew, playing against the varsity guys, that it wouldn't be beneficial for my health if I played against those guys.
TPG: I'm not going to let you go without a Ronda Rousey question. What do you think her rising and then losing did for the entire sport, not just the women's side, but the men's side of UFC?
DILLASHAW: Her rise brought a lot of attention to the sport, which is welcomed. She doesn't just reach the normal MMA fan. She reaches so many more people because she's a movie star and she's on magazines. Big name celebrities know about UFC because they know Ronda Rousey. And then her fall has been I think a little harsh because I think of how popular she was. When you're that popular and that dominant, when you lose, it's pretty dramatic, no matter how it's done.
TPG: Is there conversation in the locker room, analyzing that, and making people ask, what do I have to do to become a celebrity fighter?
DILLASHAW: No. Not that I've been around. I'm sure there's some talk about it, guys like Conor McGregor, talking trash and trying to play up that image. He's good at that. To me, it's unnatural. I have to stick to who I am and be the fighter I am, so when I'm done, I look back on my career and be happy on what I did and not feel like a sellout.
TPG: How can you build a storyline for a UFC match without talking trash?
DILLASHAW: I think there's always a little bit of trash, thinking you're the better fighter. I don't mind that. I feel like all I need to do is show my highlights instead of talking a big game. I'd rather show a big game and have entertaining fights than have the Jersey Shore talk.
-- Follow Jeffrey Eisenband on Twitter @JeffEisenband.