T.J. Dillashaw returned to MMA action late last month and looked every bit the bantamweight king in waiting. The former strap-holder, who never actually lost his belt inside the Octagon, defeated Cory Sandhagen with a brave, technical display at UFC Vegas 32.
Emphasis on the bravery here. During the fight, Dillashaw suffered multiple ligament tears to his left knee in the first round and was clearly in great discomfort heading out for the second.
On top of that, Dillashaw suffered a cut to the brow that leaked blood directly into his eye throughout the fight. The laceration formed when Sandhagen connected sweetly with a clump of scar tissue. The blow reopened the wound responsible for the cancellation of the original Dillashaw vs. Sandhagen fight that had been set for April.
But it didn’t shop T.J, who limped around the cage, gazing through blood like some kind of crazed 16th-century pirate en route to a deserved judges’ decision win.
T.J. Dillashaw’s Surgery a Success
Following the fight, the Nevada Athletic Commission issued Dillashaw with a likely six-month medical suspension pending surgery on those torn ligaments – a real kick in the teeth for a fighter who’d only just returned from a two-year USADA suspension after failing a P.E.D. test.
Dillashaw had other ideas, however. He underwent successful surgery last week and fully expects to return to fitness in half the time outlined by the commission.
Speaking with former UFC fighter turned podcast host Brendan Schaub just before UFC265, T.J. Dillashaw said:
“I just had surgery on Thursday. I had a medial meniscus bucket handle tear, a lateral meniscus tear, and a PCL tear. Almost everything. I’m just glad it wasn’t ACL. I actually am happy with the results; it would’ve been nine months (had it been the ACL). I’m looking at a three-month recovery right now until I can get back to good training, fight for the title at beginning of next year.”
Later in the same interview with Schaub, T.J. Dillashaw spoke candidly about the moment he suffered the ligament damage, admitting surprise at Sandhagen’s failure to realize (and perhaps capitalize on) the injury.
“It was loud, dude. Like, I’m super surprised he didn’t hear it or feel it because I know I even heard it when it happened. So I knew that I was [hurt]. As soon as the round was over, I limped back to my corner and I sat down and I was like, ‘Dude, my knee is f*cked.’ Instantly, that was the first thing I said. They bleeped it out on TV because it’s ESPN and I said f*ck.”
What’s Next in Store for T.J. Dillashaw?
No doubt it was fortunate for Dillashaw that his opponent didn’t catch on to the severity of his leg injury. In what was a very close fight that went to a split decision, a few well-placed chops to the leg from Sandhagen could have made all the difference.
Several UFC fighters, including featherweight champion Alex Volkanovski and Angela Hill, felt that Sandhagen had won the bout vs. Dillashaw as it was, and thousands of fans poured into the debate on social media post-fight.
Regardless, it’s Dillashaw who claimed a deserved win: you can’t lament a man willing to stand and bang on one leg with blood oozing out of his head… (Plus, I personally had it 3-2 Dillashaw and I’d bet on Sandhagen to win, so go figure). Fair play to the former champion for eking out a tough W.
Dillashaw will now be aiming to get himself back into top shape for a late 2021/ early 2022 bout vs. (most likely) Petr Yan or Aljamain Sterling to regain his bantamweight crown, and I for one won’t be betting against him again!
Like Dillashaw, himself said after the Sandhagen fight, “Daddy’s home bxxxxex.”