T.J. Dillashaw and Aljamain Sterling have already begun the trash talk.
Earlier this month, Sterling silenced his critics by beating Petr Yan at UFC 273 to retain his bantamweight title. After the bout, Sterling called for his next title defense to come against the former bantamweight champion Dillashaw, saying saying he’d “like an opportunity to slap him up.” Sterling later walked that statement back by saying that Dillashaw “doesn’t really deserve” a title shot, but that he would still be willing to fight him next if that’s what the UFC wants. And perhaps with this in mind, Dillashaw has now come out taking shots at the bantamweight champion.
“I’m not too worried about Sterling,” Dillashaw told ESPN. “That callout, it’s a pretty easy fight for me, to be honest.
“I think it’s gonna be real good. I mean, congratulations to him, implementing his game plan in the fight. He showed some weaknesses in Yan, but stylistically that fight is perfect for me, so he can say anything he wants, but he ain’t gonna be champion for much longer.”
Dillashaw is a two time UFC bantamweight champion. He first won the belt at UFC 173 with a stoppage of Renan Barao, then held the title for nearly two years before dropping it in a contentious split decision to Dominick Cruz in 2016.
Dillashaw then reclaimed the title a year later with a win over Cody Garbrandt, but vacated it after failing drug tests for EPO in 2019. Dillashaw served a two-year suspension from the sport before returning in 2021 and winning a split decision over Cory Sandhagen, putting himself in line for a possible title shot.
It’s this extensive history in the division that makes Dillashaw so confident he can beat Sterling.
“He’s good, don’t get me wrong,” Dillashaw said. “He’s got some attributes. He wouldn’t be where he is without being good, but he’s definitely not champion caliber. The guys that I’ve fought already in the past [are] much better than he is, a lot more dangerous. There’s no danger fighting Sterling. Has he ever even knocked anyone out? I don’t know. I didn’t even look at his record.
“It’s a guy that you don’t have to be worried about. There’s no way he’s gonna be out-grappling me. His striking is straight pathetic, so yeah, I’m surprised that he is where he is, and stylistically it’s a great fight for me.”
Unsurprisingly, the bantamweight champion disagrees.
Sterling took to social media Tuesday afternoon where he responded to Dillashaw’s comments, mocking him for his PED usage and for losing to Henry Cejudo.
.@TJDillashaw who TF have you beaten that is soOoOoo much tougher than the guys I’ve faced? This is Comedy Central. You should do stand up with @HenryCejudo. He’s your daddy, after he sonned your needled ass— Aljamain Sterling (@funkmasterMMA) April 26, 2022
“Who TF have you beaten that is soOoOoo much tougher than the guys I’ve faced? This is Comedy Central. You should do stand up with Henry Cejudo. He’s your daddy, after he sonned your needled ass.”
While no official decision has been made on who will next challenge for the bantamweight title, Dillashaw does appear to have the inside track, per UFC President Dana White. However, he may have to wait a while as Sterling has said he’s looking to take some time off following UFC 273.