T.J. Dillashaw is hoping for an immediate title shot upon his return to the UFC but is also willing to fight anyone in the top five.
T.J. Dillashaw will return to the UFC later this year after serving a two-year suspension due to a positive drug test for EPO, and the 35-year-old wants to reclaim what he feels is rightfully his: the bantamweight title.
Although Dillashaw hasn’t fought since his first-round TKO loss to then-flyweight champion Henry Cejudo in 2019 — in a bout which he also tested positive for EPO — the former two-time bantamweight titleholder still feels he deserves an immediate title when he returns.
“I’m ready to go straight for the belt, if that’s the opportunity that comes at me because I know Yan wants it.” Dillashaw told Mike Swick on the “Real Quick with Mike Swick” podcast (h/t MMA Junkie). “He’s already been vocally talking about it and we’ll see what happens on March 6 when he fights 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.”
If the UFC believes Dillashaw first needs a tune-up fight, however, the Colorado resident is open to fight anyone in the top five.
“I’m in a good situation,” he said. “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.”
While Dillashaw didn’t mention any names in the top five the Bang Ludwig product could, perhaps, be stoking the fires for a future title eliminator with Cory Sandhagen. ‘The Sandman’ is on a two-fight KO streak and is adamant he deserves the next title shot over Dillashaw.
“If it comes down to it, I think I should be the next one fighting for the title, but if we need to eliminate another option, which is T.J., then I’ll fight T.J., and then I’ll fight for the title, too.”