Former two-time UFC bantamweight titleholder, T.J. Dillashaw recently completed his two-year retroactive suspension issued by anti-doping agency USADA amid a positive test for the banned substance, EPO (erythropoietin) — with speculation rife as to who he’ll land opposite in his Octagon comeback.
Set for a return to the bantamweight ranks in the coming months, the Angels Camp veteran last featured at UFC Fight Night Brooklyn in January of 2019, dropping a flyweight title challenge loss to then-champion, Henry Cejudo inside thirty-seconds due to a knockout.
Relinquishing the bantamweight crown, Dillashaw explained how he had been notified by USADA of some “adverse findings” found in both a pre and post-fight drug test sample he had provided, ultimately testing positive for EPO.
Slapped with a two-year retroactive suspension for his failed drug-test, Dillashaw completed the ban back in January and is currently eligible to return to active-competition.
Whilst an opponent for the Californian’s return has yet to be booked, in his time away from the sport, the recently turned 35-year-old claimed that the bantamweight championship still belonged to him despite his relinquishing.
Calling multiple times for an immediate title tilt upon his Octagon return, Dillashaw has only seen those calls welcomed by incumbent 135-pound best, Petr Yan — who has claimed he’d be willing to fight Dillashaw, however, he must first get past Aljamain Sterling at UFC 259 on March 6th. in his first attempted title defence.
With the emergence of Elevation Fight Team mainstay and brief training partner of Dillashaw in Colorado, Cody Sandhagen — the dynamic finisher stamped his own title intentions with a pair of brutal, highlight-reel knockouts of both Marlon Moraes and Frankie Edgar in October and February, respectively.
Speaking with former UFC welterweight contender, Mike Swick recently on the Real Quick with Mike Swick show — Dillashaw maintained he wants to fight for the title in his UFC comeback — claiming that current champion Yan is eager to try and “catch” him cold in his first fight since his return from suspension.
“Everyone’s gotta kind of wrap their head around coming back and getting back in there, but no, I’m ready to go straight for the belt,” Dillashaw said. “If that’s the opportunity that comes at me, because I know (Petr) Yan wants it, he’s already been vocally talking about it and we’ll see what happens on March 6th. when he fights (Aljamain) Sterling. He’s got a tough test ahead of him, but that’s the fight he wants. I feel like I didn’t leave this sport by losing my belt. He knows that 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.”
“Maybe he’s (Petr Yan) thinking me coming back for my first fight might be the best time to catch me as well too, try to catch me slipping. But that’s what I want. The ultimate goal is to be the champion, The greatest things come to you when you’re champion, the goal is to be the champion, so why not get out there and get it done.“
For the first time since his suspension, Dillashaw claimed he’d also be open to a title-eliminator against a top-five contender, but made it clear an immediate title outing is his priority.
“There’s been some talks, but nothing can be announced yet,” Dillashaw explained. “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 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 fighting for the belt right away, then so be it. If that’s fighting someone else in the top-five, awesome.“
A two-time bantamweight champion, Dillashaw, who plys his trade under the tutelage of renowned head coach, Duane Ludwig at Bang Muay Thai began his second reign at UFC 217 in November of 2017 — handing former Team Alpha MMA teammate, Cody Garbrandt his first career loss with a second round knockout.
Dillashaw successfully defended the championship in an immediate rematch at UFC 227 the following August, this time finishing the Ohio native with a first round barrage at the fence in a one-sided performance.