T. J. ­Dillashaw and Dominick Cruz to Face Off at UFC Fight Night Boston

Titleholders past and present are ready to throw down at the TD Garden this weekend.

tj dillashaw dominick cruz ufc boston

T. J. Dillashaw, right, lands a blow to Renan Barão’s head during their bantamweight title fight last July. / Photograph by Jeff Haynes/AP Images

On Sunday, January 17, the UFC kicks off the new year with a bang when bantamweight champion T. J. Dillashaw and former champ Dominick Cruz face off in Boston.

Fans have been clamoring for this matchup for a long time, so expect fireworks when the pair finally throws down inside the Octagon at the TD Garden.

UFC president Dana White “doesn’t want a bad show here in his hometown,” Cruz says. “He knows me and T. J. are going to deliver a good fight. There’s no doubt about that.”

If having a belt on the line wasn’t enough motivation for the bantamweight standouts, there’s also been a lot of bad blood brewing between them, which should lead to plenty of action when they finally step inside the Octagon.

While he’s not taking this fight lightly, Dillashaw believes he’s more exciting than Cruz and doesn’t expect him to be much of a challenge.

“They call him the ‘Decision-ator,'” Dillashaw says. “He likes to play tag and run—he doesn’t really like to fight. He’s not an entertaining fighter.”

Cruz, of course, disagrees with this assessment of his fighting style and thinks Dillashaw “says silly things and listens to silly people.” However, he also feels like he has more to prove than the reigning champ.

After becoming the UFC’s first ever bantamweight titleholder in 2011, Cruz was forced to vacate the belt following an ACL injury and a torn groin, which left him inactive until 2014. He returned with a vengeance when he scored a first round knockout against veteran Takeya Mizugaki at UFC 178, but another ACL injury would keep him on the sidelines until this weekend’s matchup against Dillashaw.

Cruz hopes that reclaiming the belt will inspire fans to want to overcome their own personal adversities.

“I’m here to represent the general people—everybody has a hard life right now,” Cruz says. “It’s tough, but you got to grind and put your head down and stay positive.”

Joining Cruz and Dillashaw on the stacked card will be former lightweight champion Anthony Pettis, who is set to square off with the highly touted Eddie Alvarez.

Like Cruz, Pettis is itching to get his belt back after losing it to Brazilian bruiser Rafael dos Anjos last year. He hopes to make his case as the division’s number one contender with a win over Alvarez, a former champ in the Bellator organization.

Always an entertaining striker to watch, viewers can expect Pettis to throw some funky moves like his famous “Showtime kick” during his trip to Boston.

“If the guy gives me an opportunity, you better believe I’m going for some fantastical finish to get the crowd into the fight,” Pettis says.

UFC Fight Night Boston will air live on Fox Sports 1 on Sunday, January 17, starting at 8 p.m.