T.J. Dillashaw is less than two months away from being eligible to return to compete in mixed martial arts and he already has his eyes set on the UFC bantamweight title.
Disllashaw was handed a two-year suspension by the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) for testing positive for EPO in pre-fight testing ahead of his attempt at winning the UFC flyweight championship against Henry Cejudo in January, 2019. The 34-year-old has since admitted to taking performance enhancers, apologising to his teammates, family and coaches.
The Californian, who was UFC bantamweight champion at the time, suffered a first-round defeat to Cejudo as he bidded to become a two-weight UFC champion before news broke of his ban.
Ahead of the incoming punishment meted out by USADA, Dillashaw relinquished his gold at 135 pounds and Cejudo went on to win the vacant bantamweight championship as Dillashaw was in fighting absentia.
Cejudo has since “retired” from the sport and the title he vacated was then won by Russia’s Petr Yan in July. Dillashaw has been a keen observer of what has been going on in the sport during his absence and he doesn’t like what he sees – wanting to fight for the belt that was taken from his for his transgressions.
“I want that title fight right away,” Dillashaw told ESPN. “You’ve got a guy in Petr Yan who beat someone for the belt that is 0-2 in the division. Jose Aldo has two losses [at 135 pounds]; you beat him for the title and you’re calling yourself a champion?
“That belt has changed hands every fight. No one there has dominated. That’s my belt, and I want to come back to a title fight.”
If he doesn’t get the title fight he thinks he deserves, Dillashaw will only settle for a fight from a top-5 ranked opponent, such as Corey Sandhagen, and will not entertain a bout with former teammate-turned-rival Urijah Faber.
“That’s a little bit of a joke,” Dillashaw said of a fight with Faber. “I wouldn’t mind beating his ass, but he’s not even in the top 15. I’m looking to fight for a title and the guy is not even in the top 15. I guess if [UFC] made it worth my while… I would love to whoop his ass; it would feel good, but it’s kind of a joke.
“[Sandhagen] wants to fight me because he knows that’s his way to the title. The title shot is mine, and he wants to fight me because he wants to fight for the title. If I have to fight someone else, it better be in the top 5.”