Former Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) bantamweight champion TJ Dillashaw is just a few weeks away from becoming eligible to make his mixed martial arts (MMA) return, following a United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) drug-testing suspension that left him sidelined for two years.
And while top contenders like Cory Sandhagen are ready to show him how much the division has improved during his absence, Dillashaw is only interested in fighting for the 135-pound title, which current champion Petr Yan is expected to defend against No. 1-ranked Aljamain Sterling in early 2021.
“I want that title fight, I want it right away,” Dillashaw told ESPN. “You’ve got a guy in Petr Yan who beat someone for the belt that is 0-2 in the division. Jose Aldo has two losses and you beat him for the title and you’re calling yourself a champion? To me you’re an interim champion. The weight class is fucked up, it’s ready for me to come back. I’ll be a three-time bantamweight champion, that’s a guarantee, and it’s going to happen sooner than people think.”
A lot has changed since the soon-to-be 35 year-old Dillashaw (15-4) wore the division strap. Yan went from No. 14 to world champion, former titleholder Dominick Cruz fell out of the Top 10, Henry Cejudo retired, ex-champ Cody Garbrandt dropped to flyweight, and former featherweights Jose Aldo and Frankie Edgar debuted at 135 pounds.
It should also be noted that Dillashaw is coming off a loss, having been stopped by Cejudo in his attempt to drop down a weight class and join the “champ champ” club at UFC Fight Night 143. No word yet on whether or not the promotion will grant him an immediate title shot, but I have a feeing the road to the title may be a bit bumpier than Dillashaw expects.