T.J. Dillashaw believes he is still the best bantamweight in the sport.
The former two-time titleholder was forced to call it a career earlier this year after a lingering shoulder injury turned into a career-ending one. Since then, Dillashaw has been doing everything in his power to heal up with the hopes of making a triumphant return to the Octagon one day.
Recently, Dillashaw sat down to discuss his injury, where he is today, and how he is coping with the incredibly tough decision to walk away from a sport that he undeniably still loves.
“I didn’t want to retire,” Dillashaw said on the Jaxxon Podcast. “It’s been a real bitter thing. It’s been hard for me to be around the sport recently like even helping my training partner Juan Archuleta fighting in Japan in RIZIN for the belt. It’s been hard for me to wrap my head around being in the sport at the same time being forced out of it. Also, my career just kind of panned out the way it did towards the end — really just bitter, you know?
“I’m hoping — every doctor I’ve met, they’re all specialists on my shoulder, they’re all telling me they can’t put me back good enough to be able to fight again. Doctors aren’t always right but I have to have a super-extensive shoulder surgery. What I’m waiting on right now are some cadaver parts. I need a cadaver shoulder head bone.”
T.J. Dillashaw Knows He’s Better Than Aljamain Sterling
Dillashaw’s last fight inside the Octagon came at UFC 280 in October when he stepped up to challenge reigning bantamweight champion Aljamain Sterling. Things took a turn for the worse in the opening round when it appeared that Dillashaw’s shoulder had popped out of place. Making it through the first five minutes, his cornermen frantically attempted to put the shoulder back in place, but it was just a matter of time before the injury would result in his defeat.
Sterling scored a TKO in the second round to retain the title and send T.J. Dillashaw into a reluctant retirement. Looking back on the fight, Dillashaw believes that if he had been 100% healthy, he would have easily dispatched the ‘Funkmaster’ en route to a third title reign.
“I was fighting a guy that I match up really well against,” Dillashaw continued. “Aljamain Sterling had the belt — has the belt — and I don’t think he’s that great. Yeah, he’s got some awesome grappling, he’s got some tricky back takes but his stand-up is just not threatening at all. I could let him hit me as hard as he wants and nothing would happen.”
Breaking: Former bantamweight champion TJ Dillashaw basically confirms he’s coming out of retirement. He says he wants Cruz & Sterling rematches pic.twitter.com/pxtAPWQIbO
— MMA Joey (@MMAJOEYC) August 3, 2023
Despite the disastrous end, T.J. Dillashaw’s career was filled with some incredibly impressive wins and two title reigns. Unfortunately, much of that takes a backseat to his two-year suspension by the United States Anti-Doping Agency after testing positive for recombinant human erythropoietin (EPO) following his bout with Henry Cejudo in 2019.
Dillashaw did his time and came back, earning a victory over Cory Sandhagen which set the stage for his clash with Aljamain Sterling. All things considered, Dillashaw still whole-heartedly believes he is the best bantamweight in the world and hopes to prove it once again, should his shoulder ever recover.
“I know that I’m still the best guy in the weight class, by far,” Dillashaw said. “For the sport to be taken from me the way that it was, it just doesn’t sit well with me… If the shoulder’s good, man, definitely I have to get back in there. I can’t let it go out the way it did.”
Transcription by MMA Fighting