T.J. Dillashaw: UFC on ESPN 27 performance will ‘erase’ PED controversy

LAS VEGAS – Former UFC bantamweight champion T.J. Dillashaw is out to prove that performance-enhancing drugs were not the only reason for his success prior to his lengthy suspension.

After popping for banned substances in January 2019, Dillashaw (16-4 MMA, 12-4 UFC) returns to the octagon Saturday against Cory Sandhagen (14-2 MMA, 7-1 UFC) in the main event of UFC on ESPN 27, which takes place at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas and airs on ESPN.

For more than two years, Dillashaw has answered questions about doping. He tested positive for EPO, which is widely considered to be one of the more effective substances for an MMA fighter. He’s spoken openly about the reason behind his actions and his regrets he made ahead of his UFC on ESPN+ 1 loss to Henry Cejudo.

Dillashaw is now cleared for action and gets an opportunity to start a new chapter of his career. All of his previous accomplishments have come into question, however, and that includes two UFC bantamweight title reigns and a plethora of divisional records. Dillashaw knows he needs to perform like the man who did all those things, and that’s exactly his expectation.

“There’s not going to be a slip in my performance,” Dillashaw told MMA Junkie and other reporters at Wednesday’s UFC on ESPN 27 media day. “I’m going to go out there and look dominant, so it’s going to be a great one. … I think (my performance is) going to erase (the controversy) after Saturday when I come out there, and you see how good I look.”

Dillashaw comes back and gets thrown right into the fray at 135 pounds with the matchup against Sandhagen, who is a dangerous contender on the rise. Moreover, Sandhagen is a former training partner of Dillashaw, and there’s a degree of bad blood entering the contest.

Fighting a former teammate is not something new for Dillashaw. He’s mixed it up twice with Cody Garbrandt and won both of those contests by knockout. He hopes he can do the same to Sandhagen.

“I’ve always done very well against guys I’ve trained with,” Dillashaw said. “I’m a very good guy about game planning. I know where guys weaknesses are at, and it’s nice for me to know that. But it’s all about when the lights turn on. You can talk about practice all you want, but we ain’t here to talk about practice. We’re here to talk about when everyone is watching.”

In Dillashaw’s perfect world, he said he would’ve come right back to challenge for the bantamweight title he was rather stripped of. In his mind, this is as good as it gets in the division, though.

Dillashaw said he’s not impressed by current champion Aljamain Sterling or former champ Petr Yan – who are expected to rematch for the belt later this year – and that’s why he thinks his bout with Sandhagen is the most legitimate matchup that can be made right now.

“This is a real title fight, to be honest,” Dillashaw said. “I was not very impressed with Aljamain and Yan in their last fight. I think Cory Sandhagen’s the toughest in the weight class right now. This is a true title fight. I’m the champ coming back, and it’s time to prove it.”

Ultimately, Dillashaw said he’s ready to be back in a big way. He’s put all his career controversy in the past and said there’s nothing that can fluster him as he prepares to re-enter the cage.

“Everything’s already been said,” Dillashaw said. “I didn’t hide behind anything, and it is what is. It’s something you’ve just got to – I’m a very mentally tough guy. It’s not going to ever break me.”

Read More

Written by 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *