After serving his two-year USADA suspension, former two-time UFC bantamweight champion, T.J. Dillashaw, is ready to make his comeback in the UFC. Right off the bat, Dillashaw is looking for a shot at the undisputed title. But does he deserve that opportunity?
Dillashaw first became a champion when he defeated Renan Barão on short notice on July 25, 2015. Unfortunately, he lost the title — after defending it twice — to Dominick Cruz via a split decision. He regained the title when he defeated then-champion Cody Garbrandt at UFC 217.
A couple of months later, the duo collided for a second time, and Dillashaw once again outsmarted Garbrandt to keep his belt. T.J. then became UFC President Dana White’s mercenary and took it upon himself to eradicate the flyweight division by dethroning then-champion, Henry Cejudo.
Cejudo, however, had other plans. Not only did he knock out Dillashaw in the first round, but he also saved the division from going extinct. Following the bout, it was revealed that Dillashaw tested positive for recombinant human erythropoietin, also known as EPO. As a result, he vacated the bantamweight strap and was suspended for 2 years.
How Did T.J. Dillashaw Spend his Time Off?
Dillashaw had nagging shoulder injuries before the Cejudo fight. He used his suspension to get both his shoulders fixed. He also got multiple stem cell treatments done, some of which are illegal in the United States. Hence, he got it done in countries like Panama and Colombia.
Instead of running away from his past, the former champion embraced it and opened up a juice bar called ‘Clean Juice.’ This is not surprising at all, as we have seen him embrace ‘The Snake’ persona when he got a snake tattoo before the second Garbrandt fight.
According to the man himself, he has not stopped training and is willing to fight a top 5 contender right away. To make things easy for Dillashaw, most of the top-ranked contenders have already called him out.
“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,” Dillashaw told Mike Swick.
Title Shot or Not?
Even though many fans would love to see T.J. take on the young lions right away, there are many hurdles to overcome for the former champ.
Dillashaw is not ranked in the division. Now we all know that he has been inactive for a while, and that’s exactly my point. The bantamweight division is full of young talent, and they have completely taken over since T.J. left.
Two years is a long time in MMA, and ring rust is a real thing. Besides that, he is 35 years old and probably out of his prime. A tune-up fight will help identify where he stands mentally and skill-wise. Putting him against someone like Aljamain Sterling or Cory Sandhagen (who gave T.J. problems in sparring) is a risky move.