Former UFC bantamweight champion TJ Dillashaw will finally come to the end of two-year suspension for the performance-enhancing drug EPO in 2021, and despite his lengthy layoff he’s eager to step right back into a title shot.
“I’m ready to go straight for the belt, if that’s the opportunity that comes at me because I know [current bantamweight champion, Petr] Yan wants it,” the now 35-year-old Dillashaw said on Mike Swick’s podcast this week.
“He’s already been vocally talking about it and we’ll see what happens on March 6 when he fights [Aljamain] Sterling. He’s got a tough test ahead of him, but that’s the fight he wants. I didn’t leave this sport by losing my belt. He knows there’s a lot of speculation if he’s the real champ because he hasn’t beaten the champion to get that belt, so he wants it. As well as that, I’m the biggest draw for him right now to try to fight.”
Dillashaw isn’t counting on getting the chance to win back his belt right away though, and has already let the UFC know he’s willing to fight his way back to the top.
“I’m in a good situation. I think everyone in the top five has called me out. I want to come back and fight the best. I’m 35 years old now, I’ve got a lot of things in life going on, so I want to come back and prove that I’m the best bantamweight of all time, and I want to come back and fight the best. If that’s for the belt right away then so be it. If that’s fighting someone else in the top five, awesome.
“Every person that’s called me out, I’ve said yes to the UFC, so that’s just showing them that I’m eager to get back in there. So it doesn’t really matter as long as it’s someone that’s at the top of the game, because I’m gonna climb up and get that belt back fast.”
Given that he had to vacate the title due to having taken PED’s and has been out of action for two years, not to mention the fact that he actually lost his last fight by 32 second TKO against Henry Cejudo, it’s hard to justify how Dillashaw could leapfrog ahead of a leading contender like Cory Sandhagen right now.
Nonetheless, there’s no doubt his skill-set, name value and past accomplishments (albeit now somewhat tainted in hindsight), Dillashaw will shake things up in the already highly competitive upper reaches of the 135lb weight class and could lead to a lot of exciting match-ups going forward.