T.J. Dillashaw doesn’t care if his reputation is tainted after failing a drug test for erythropoietin (EPO) and serving a two-year suspension but fellow UFC legend Jose Aldo wonders if he can still be great under a more script antidoping program.
Dillashaw will attempt to regain the 135-pound championship when he meets Aljamain Sterling in the co-main event of UFC 280 in Abu Dhabi on Oct. 22, and Aldo mentions Dillashaw’s past doping failure as one of the reasons why he’s picking Sterling “is a big favorite” to defend his throne.
“No disrespect to T.J., he’s a great athlete, but I think his time has gone,” Aldo told Canal Encarada. “These two years he stayed out and not testing himself. I’ll say this, man, outside [of] fighting, the doping situation, everything he’s built, we don’t know how it was, if it really was his body because, you like it or not, when antidoping got more strict, he got punched twice and went down.
“It’s not the same thing when he fought and [doping] was more open. That, no doubt, makes a huge difference. If he’s getting in there and trying to prove [himself] to his own head, he already starts with an opponent inside himself, to see if he can do the things he did before the doping. So, to me, Sterling is a big favorite in this fight.”
The United States Anti-Doping Agency program took effect in the UFC in July 2015, when Dillashaw was champion and he defended his title that month against Renan Barao, but then lost a decision to Dominick Cruz.
Dillashaw went back to win two in a row and regain the title against Cody Garbrandt, knocking him out again in a rematch before losing to flyweight Henry Cejudo in his attempt to become a two-division titleholder, failing a drug test in the process. Dillashaw defeated Cory Sandhagen via split decision in his return from suspension.
Meanwhile, Aldo is gunning for a second shot at the 135-pound title when he meets Merab Dvalishvili at Saturday’s UFC 278 in Salt Lake City. The Brazilian won his past three over Rob Font, Pedro Munhoz and Marlon Vera since coming up short against Yan for the vacant title in Abu Dhabi.
“I respect my next opponent a lot, I’ll always respect [them], but I’ll win and then become champion, no matter if it’s Sterling or TJ,” he said. “It doesn’t matter. I’m reaching my prime again, I’m getting better. Regardless of who I’m fighting for the title, I will win. And then, when I win, I have the goal to close my career. But, of course, let’s respect [Merab]. One step at a time. I’ll win against Merab, then I’ll take the second step and the third, and everybody will know what I want.
“Like I said, we have to get in there and win. Everybody talks about me being the next contender already. The UFC knows that, I think everybody knows that. Dana [White], Sean [Shelby], everybody knows what I’ve been doing. I talk to them as well, the fact I don’t want to sit and wait, that beating Merab, I’ll definitely be the next to challenge for the bantamweight title. It doesn’t need to be by knockout, just go there and win. Of course, if it’s quick and easy, then it impresses even more, but there’s no doubt I’m the next contender.”
Aldo said he nearing retirement but wants to walk away as one of the very few fighters to ever win belts in multiple weight classes. Right now, he still feels he’s the greatest featherweight in MMA history despite Alexander Volkanovski’s recent feats.
“To me, in my opinion, I think I’m the best featherweight in history,” Aldo said. “Thankfully we had the media watching the lighter weights when WEC started, and I’m part of that story. I consider myself the greatest featherweight of all-time and I also respect a lot what Volkanovski has been doing. He’s earned the right to say that he feels he’s the best featherweight in history, I don’t see any problem with that, but history is on my side.
“He still has a path to follow and a few steps to take to get where I got. Can he get there? Or course, he’s talented. I respect the featherweight division, but the crop isn’t the best right now. If you look at it, I’ve defended the title left and right, I was always defending it. History speaks for itself, and I do consider myself the best featherweight in history.”