In October, Sterling puts his bantamweight title on the line against Dillashaw in the co-main event of UFC 280 — and though the bout is still over two months away, the trash talk has already started between the two competitors. After the fight was announced, Dillashaw came out and told MMA Fighting that Sterling “is not a dangerous fighter” and that Sterling mostly tries to make fights “a snoozefest.” On Wednesday, Sterling responded to Dillashaw’s comments, saying that he’s compensating for his own insecurities.
“The athletes are the ones taking over the sport, right? So he can say whatever it is that he wants to say, I’m going to be smarter in there, I’m going to be faster in there, I’m going to be stronger than him in there, I’m going to be the bigger guy in there, and we’ll see who’s the most dangerous guy in the division,” Sterling said on The MMA Hour.
“This is the division everyone is saying is one of the toughest, and I’m at the top — and you’re saying I’m not that dangerous? What does that say about everyone else? To me, it’s all talk. I think he’s just got to tell himself something to make himself feel good, and if that’s his way of doing it — to s*** on somebody else — I guess kudos to you. But I know what I’m going in there to do, and we’ll see what happens on Oct. 22.”
Sterling didn’t stop there, though.
“The Funk Master” went in on Dillashaw for his past steroid usage, saying that too was a sign of weakness. He then suggested that Dillashaw is still cheating the system.
“When he’s talking about all this stuff, I’m like, dude, you were on the same s*** that [Renan Barao] was on. Whatever it was, even if it wasn’t the same exact thing, you were definitely on something,” Sterling said. “Your teammates outed you years ago. There’s been rumors, even before that press conference happened with him and Cody Garbrandt, there were rumors going on for the longest. But what am I going to do? Sit here and b**** and moan and say, ‘Oh, I hear he’s cheating, let me go snitch on him?’ Your people told on you. If that’s what you need to do to get by and feel better at night, I think there’s some type of issue there and he might be a little bit unconfident in his own skill set, that he feels the need to do something like that in order to get some type of edge.
“Isn’t it fascinating he got knocked out by Henry Cejudo with a toe? It wasn’t the shin, it wasn’t the foot — it was the toe that knocked him down and wobbled him the way that it did. And he came back and took those monster shots from Cory Sandhagen — hmm, I don’t know, my man. I don’t know. I know you can make the argument, ‘Oh, he cut too much weight, the brain fluids.’ Miss me with that s***. The guy’s still cheating. He’s still finding ways to cheat. Once a cheater, always a cheater. And it’s just going to be nice to beat a guy like that, get a nice feather in my cap, and to say that I did it the right way, and he’s a p****.”
Dillashaw was suspended by USADA for two years after failing drug tests for EPO prior to his flyweight fight with Henry Cejudo in 2019. He returned to fighting in 2021, winning a split decision over Cory Sandhagen to earn this bantamweight title shot.
Dillashaw has adamantly maintained that he never took any banned substances for his bantamweight bouts, even explaining that USADA went back and tested his old samples, yet the accusation remains. But Sterling seems to have no intention of giving Dillashaw the benefit of the doubt.
“I’m very indifferent about T.J., and the main thing is the guy is a cheating little weasel that’s been doing this for years,” Sterling said. “On one side of the coin, I respect him because even if you are cheating, you still have to have some type of work ethic and drive and motivation to get up in the morning and put in the work and still have the technique to win those fights. So kudos to you — you get a hand clap.
“But the second side of it, you’ve done it the dirty way. You didn’t really do it on your own merit and your own blood, sweat, and tears kind of thing. So I’m a little annoyed by that, and I get an opportunity to fight another guy who is considered one of the greatest of all-time in this division. So to beat a guy like that, I think it’s a huge feather in my cap.
“Hopefully I get to strangle him,” Sterling continued. “That would be the ideal situation because it would be a sweet victory in the sense of, ‘Oh, he’s not a dangerous fighter.’ OK, Let’s see how not dangerous I am. Last time I checked, you got your face punched in by Cory Sandhagen. That did not happen to me. ... I’m not trying to do MMA math, but I like my odds in this one. T.J. works hard, but you’re going to have a dog in front of you that’s going to work just as hard, if not harder.”
UFC 280 takes place on Oct. 22 at the Etihad Arena in Abu Dhabi.