UFC champs TJ Dillishaw, Gilbert Melendez and Joseph Benavidez visited Raiders headquarters Tuesday afternoon. The Bantamweight champion, the Lightweight champion and the Flyweight champion spent time meeting the players, some of the coaches and experiencing a Raiders practice.
Dillishaw and Melendez grew up Raiders fans. “I’ve been a Raider fan my entire life,” said Dillishaw. “My whole family is Raiders fans. My brother lives in the area and so does my cousin, so I have season tickets and we go to the games as much as possible. This is really a no brainer for me to come down and check out practice and meet some of the guys. I’m excited about it. It’s really cool.”
“I grew up in Southern California when the Raiders were still in LA and it was a big part of the community, being a Raiders fan out there,” added Melendez. “Always been a supporter of the Raiders, my dad was, a lot of my family is, and they moved up to Oakland and a few years later I moved up to the Bay too myself and continued to support them.”
And Benavidez, who has been a Dallas Cowboys fan, is now also a fan of the Silver and Black after spending time with the Raiders. “Met some of the guys, and I was like, ‘hey, I’m going to root for that guy and look out for him.’ When I came over here, I was just excited to meet the guys and see the practice, but they definitely gained a new fan for sure,” said Benavidez.
Photo by Tony Gonzales
Dillishaw recently won the UFC Bantamweight Championship belt and brought it with him to practice. Many of the players, including big UFC fan
There is mutual respect among the Raiders and the UFC fighters, as they admire each other’s work. And there is a shared understanding that they are all training to be the best. “Everyone is striving for the title – that’s what we’re doing and I’m sure that’s what they’re doing,” said Melendez. “They’re not here to be second best, so I’m here to support.”
Melendez has built relationships with several of the Raiders players from offseason training at his gym. “I’ve always been a Raiders fan and it’s nice to cross-pollinate and support them,” said Melendez.
The fighters were excited to watch how the Raiders prepare on a weekly basis for game day. “It’s cool, just regular athletes like me, training every day and putting in the hard work,” said Dillishaw. “It’s fun to come and see what’s not on TV, come see them put in the work on the practice field.”
“It was great to come out to practice and see everyone in their element and see what amazing athletes these guys are,” added Melendez. “You respect them tremendously, but just to see them here and see it live and see the work they’re putting in, it’s always fun to see. Again, you can feel the energy out here and you try steal it.”
Benavidez enjoyed meeting the guys after practice and getting to know the players’ humble and friendly personalities. “It’s super cool just seeing other world-class, top-notch athletes go through and how they prepare and, honestly, just how nice they are,” said Benavidez. “It’s a very humbling experience coming out here. You see the guys are giant and that’s cool [Benavidez is 5’4”]. Just seeing these amazing athletes and just talking to the guys, seeing how humble and everything they are, is really refreshing.”