This weekend, T.J. Dillashaw returns to the cage when he faces Cory Sandhagen in the main event of UFC on ESPN 27. It’s Dillashaw’s first fight back following a two-year USADA suspension after testing positive for the performance-enhancing recombinant human erythropoietin (EPO) for his flyweight title fight against Henry Cejudo, and for his return, Dillashaw has an unlikely fan who will be watching on Saturday: UFC Hall of Famer and notorious steroid-hater Michael Bisping.
Bisping is quite possibly the most outspoken opponent of steroid and drug usage in MMA, having repeatedly made his position known dating back to his days competing and in a video posted to his personal YouTube page, Bisping reiterated his stance on the use of banned substances in MMA and why he’s so strongly against them.
“I’m against steroids in a big way,” Bisping said. “If you know my story then you know I can pop this eyeball out right now. I fought a guy, Vitor Belfort, most people probably know who he is, I don’t think much of him…. I fought Vitor Belfort, I got caught with a head kick, and now I can pop this eyeball out. Blind in one eye for quite some time, before I retired, and of course, I’ll be blind for the rest of my life.
“What you’ve got to realize is that in this sport, in any combat sport, we’re not trying to put a ball in a basket, we’re not trying to kick a ball into the back of a net, we’re trying to knock out our opponent. We’re trying to inflict damage. You can dress it up however you want, you can say ‘Oh, it’s martial arts! It’s about discipline, it’s about respect!’ and it is to a certain degree, but the end goal is to render your opponent unconscious. The end goal is to choke him out, put him to sleep in front of the entire world, or inflict so much pain on another human being that they have no choice but to tap, to give up in front of the world and give up on their hopes and dreams. So it’s a very, very serious business we’re choosing to take part in and anyone who chooses to take steroids, I have no respect for. I really don’t.”
Except, it seems, in this instance.
Bisping has an extensive history of having fought competitors who were, at one time, associated with PEDs but there is a glaring difference between most of those fighters and Dillashaw: Dillashaw admitted guilt. Following his initial positive test back in 2019, Dillashaw vacated his bantamweight title and confessed to having “messed up.” He accepted his two-year USADA suspension and has made no excuses about his actions and that simple fact has made Bisping much more willing to forgive and move on than he would be had Dillashaw attempted to write it off as a tainted supplement or something like that.
“T.J. Dillashaw has served a two-year suspension and he came out and he owned up to it, and I’ve got to say, I respect that,” Bisping said. “I do. Everybody knows my stance on steroids but the fact that he came out and he owned up to it, he put his hand up and said, ‘Yeah, I cheated, the pressure got to me,’ it’s refreshing. It’s refreshing to see. Most people make up some nonsense. They say it was some cream or a supplement of whatever. They come out with outlandish things to try and make up for it rather than just saying, ‘Hey, I did it. You got me.’ So I respect that.
“He served his two-year suspension. You may have different thoughts on that. Maybe you think he shouldn’t be here, he should be banned for life, whatever that is, but that doesn’t matter because the punishment was dealt, it was a two-year suspension, and he served that.”
Having finished his suspension in January, Dillashaw now has the opportunity to prove that his previous title wins were not the result of illegal drug use, something he has firmly maintained all throughout his suspension. On Saturday he faces MMA Fighting’s third-ranked bantamweight, Cory Sandhagen, in a bout that may well determine the next 135-pound title challenger and Bisping is excited to see the return of the former bantamweight champion.
“For T.J. to come back after two years and take on this guy? There’s easy fights to have,” Bisping said. “Easier comeback fights have to get back into the swing of things, to let the world know you’re still a contender. Way easier fights to do that with. So as I say, I do respect T.J. Dillashaw for doing that. It’s gonna be a great fight this weekend and I can’t wait to see it.”
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I have 8 fight winning streak, this guy is 3-3 in last 6 fights. I was looking to fight him year ago, but he was scared even mention my name. @danthehangman wish you good luck in next fights, win something and we can talk. https://t.co/WxGcVkq15O
— Makhachev Islam (@MAKHACHEVMMA) July 19, 2021
Scared haha check the timeline. I went to war with Felder and Poirier while you were cherping. Both make your fight Saturday look like a tickle party. If you have a problem, we can fight September. @MAKHACHEVMMA
— Dan Hangman Hooker (@danthehangman) July 20, 2021
Tai Tuivasa responding to Greg Hardy.
Holly is one of my favorite fighters so I never want to say anything that could be construed as negative toward/about her or the fight but the truth is if we had finished that round 5 & went to a decision it would have been a draw. https://t.co/SPgKL6Kcaa
— Miesha Tate (@MieshaTate) July 19, 2021
Leon why you so quiet? @Leon_edwardsmma nobody respect but I do! When we fight? October? November? You tell me!
— GILBERT BURNS DURINHO (@GilbertDurinho) July 20, 2021
I’ll note here that popping for EPO isn’t like popping for other PEDs. There’s very little way to “explain” it away. Kinda hard to accidentally take EPO. But I do agree with Bisping, it’s a rare sight to see someone just say, “I screwed up” in this sport.
Thanks for reading and see y’all tomorrow.
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