The injury occurred during the first takedown when Sterling planted Dillashaw on the ground and the former bantamweight champion saw his shoulder pop out of socket. After the loss, Dillashaw revealed that he had been dealing with shoulder issues during his entire training camp yet he still took the fight because he had picked up numerous wins in the past while dealing with a similar issue.
Add to that, Dillashaw went as far as saying he believed Sterling would be an “easy fight” even if he was competing with an injured shoulder but that plan backfired spectacularly once they got in the cage together.
“He legitimately came into this fight and went through his training camp thinking I was going to be an easy fight with one arm or one arm that compromised in terms of grappling,” Sterling said when speaking to MMA Fighting. “If he either took a shot and I sprawled, his shoulder would have came out the socket or if he posted on his arm, it would come out the socket.
“So for him to go through a training camp, either the guys he’s training with, he’s kicking their asses and they’re kind of booty and they gave him a false sense of security but those guys he’s training with are not Aljamain Sterling, they’re not Merab Dvalishvili so for him to really think that he was going to run through me, it’s a testament to his arrogance that I touched on going into this fight and a testament to the delusional world that he still lives in that he thinks the competition is the same.”
A lot changed in the bantamweight division after Dillashaw was forced to relinquish his title while facing a two-year suspension for violating the UFC’s anti-doping policy when he tested positive for recombinant human erythropoietin — better known as EPO.
In his return, Dillashaw earned a controversial split decision win over Cory Sandhagen, which earned him the opportunity to compete for the title again but only after he was forced out of action for another year due to a serious knee injury suffered in that fight.
Sterling believes that Dillashaw was somehow completely discounting him as an opponent despite the resume he’s put together both as a contender and champion and now he’s working tirelessly to explain away the defeat he suffered at UFC 280.
“That’s his fault,” Sterling said. “For him to come in thinking ‘I got through training camp like this before,’ which I also did — albeit those fights weren’t UFC caliber opponents because those fights were at the beginning of my career. My first seven fights before I got my shoulder surgery, the same thing happened in training. I still took the risk to get in the fights and luckily they went my way but had I lost, I couldn’t come out and say ‘well my shoulder!’ It wasn’t an issue all these other fights but now it’s an issue?
“So to try and discredit me and not just be a man about it like the better man won today. Leave it at that. I got my ass kicked for half of the fight with Petr Yan and I said the better man showed up today and did his job. Unfortunately he made a mistake and gave me a chance to do it over but he was on his way to winning the fight. Took it on the chin, took it like a man, took my ass whooping like a man as well. When he comes out and says s*** like that it’s like you had the built in excuse the entire time.”
During his two-year suspension, Dillashaw actually had surgery on both of his shoulders to repair existing damage but now he’s looking at another procedure that will put him on the shelf for the next year.
When he’s healthy again, Dillashaw will be 37 years old and attempting to climb back up the ranks at bantamweight and it’s tough to say if he’ll ever see Sterling as an opponent again.
For his part, Sterling welcomes the opportunity to face Dillashaw for a second time because he’s fully confident that the results would be exactly the same.
“I would gladly run it back and kick his ass again and double down,” Sterling said. “If that’s what he really wants. I’m telling you, we were so dialed in and no two fights are the same, but I guarantee you, we will end up grappling at some point again, and if we do, if I take him down, and he ends up in a similar position where his butt hits the mat and he gives me an opportunity to advance to either his back or to solidify control from the top position, he’s going to end up in the exact same position and it’s going to be déjà vu and he would be taking another ass whooping all over again, which honestly doesn’t need to happen but if that’s what he wants.”
It was Dillashaw calling Sterling an easy fight the first time around but the reigning UFC bantamweight champion promises the roles would be reversed in any future rematch.
“If I’m being honest, it would be me saying easy money,” Sterling said. “I think I would have all the confidence in the world for a much more level headed reasoning why I could go into a rematch and go ‘easy money.’ Literally easy money. It’s no disrespect to him but I don’t think he’s the same guy as he was before and I think my skill set, my size and my strength is just going to overpower him.
“So 37 years old, going to have to do another year long [layoff with surgery] cause this is going to be his second one on his shoulder. If we fight again, it’s only going to be worse. That’s where I’m at.”