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Dana White says T.J. Dillashaw will get title eliminator bout, not title fight in octagon return

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TJ Dillashaw Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

T.J. Dillashaw didn’t lose his bantamweight title inside the octagon, but he’ll have to earn his way back to it in his return bout, according to Dana White.

The UFC president spoke with ESPN ahead of Saturday night’s UFC 259 event that includes a 135-pound title fight between Petr Yan and Aljamain Sterling. While Yan has expressed interest in fighting Dillashaw should the UFC make that fight in a recent interview with MMA Fighting, White says a No. 1 contender matchup is in the works.

“We’re working on something for T.J. right now that would line him up,” White said. “The winner of that fight would fight for the title next.”

Dillashaw is set to return to action for the first time in over two years after he was suspended by the United States Anti-Doping Agency stemming from a positive test for recombinant human erythropoietin (EPO). He admitted to using the banned substance prior to challenging Henry Cejudo for the flyweight title at UFC Brooklyn in January 2019, where Cejudo defeated Dillashaw by 32-second TKO.

While the former champion feels he deserves to be thrust into a championship opportunity, Dillashaw also realizes he has a ton of options since he’s been called out by several ranked 135ers, including top-five fighters Cory Sandhagen and Rob Font.

“There’s been some talks, but nothing can be announced yet,” Dillashaw said on the Real Quick with Mike Swick podcast. “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 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.

“Every person that’s called me out, I’ve said yes to, to the UFC, so that’s just showing them that I’m eager to get back in there. 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.”