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Morning Report: T.J. Dillashaw claims the UFC planning immediate title shot following his two-year USADA suspension

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T.J. Dillashaw will step on the scales at UFC 227 weigh-ins Friday in Los Angeles.
T.J. Dillashaw will step on the scales at UFC 227 weigh-ins Friday in Los Angeles.
Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

On March 20, 2019, T.J. Dillashaw relinquished his UFC bantamweight title in response to a failed USADA drug test stemming from his failed flyweight title bid against Henry Cejudo at UFC Brooklyn that January. Dillashaw tested positive for EPO, and in lieu of fighting the claims, owned up to everything and accepted a two-year suspension. That suspension is now over halfway done, meaning Dillashaw will be eligible to compete again in nine months, and when he does, he says the UFC has told him he’ll be thrown right back into the title picture.

“I was told I would get that title fight when I came back, but that doesn’t mean anything,” Dillashaw told MMAJunkie recently. “I made a mistake – I don’t own rights to anything. But if it was my choice, it would be title fight, if not top-five to prove I should get that title fight. I think that makes sense.

“I’m hoping they just throw me to the dogs. If I can’t get that title fight, I want someone in the top five so that I can get my title fight. I’m not here to play around. I want my belt back. It’s still mine. I’ll be ready.”

As one might expect, Dillashaw’s admission of using performance enhancing drugs was met with a good deal of derision from fans and fighters. But despite all the bad that’s associated with it, Dillashaw says getting caught using EPO may have been a blessing in disguise because it has allowed him to heal his body and spend time with his family away from the every day grind of a champion’s life.

“At first it was super tough,” Dillashaw said. “Then I went through two shoulder surgeries back-to-back, so that kind of added to it. Down in the dumps. On the top of the world, then down as far to the bottom as you can get. It was tough. I’m not going to lie. I would be lying if I said it wasn’t. At first it was real, real tough. But I’ve always been mentally strong.

“I work my ass off and this has actually been – I wouldn’t choose to do this – but one of the best breaks I’ve had ever. I’ve got to focus on other parts of my life. I did something I highly regret and I’ve owned up to it and paid the price for it. I hate to say it’s a blessing in disguise, because I would never choose to do it again, but it is.”

Dillashaw is eligible to compete again starting Jan. 19, 2021, but when he does come back it will be to a very different bantamweight division. After he vacated his title, Henry Cejudo moved up to bantamweight and won the vacant belt. Cejudo his currently set to defend his title against former featherweight champion Jose Aldo and following that, there is a line of new contenders waiting to get their shot at the title, including Petr Yan, Aljamain Sterling, and Cory Sandhagen.

It’s a whole new world for Dillashaw when he returns, and that means a chance to undue some of the damage he did to his own name.

“I made the mistake,” Dillashaw said. “I dirtied my name myself. It’s not on anybody else. I gave them fuel. It hurts, but that’s part of the payment – part of the payment for how I dirtied my name up. I’ve got to live with it now. . . I’m ready to push for that next goal and getting my belt back.

“Now I guess I get the opportunity to be a three-time champion, which is absurd. I don’t feel like I should’ve lost it the first time. I get to recapture it all over again. I get to go through this process a (expletive) third time.”


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