T.J. Dillashaw looks to claim ‘135-pound GOAT status’ after having ‘never lost my belt in this weight class’


T.J. Dillashaw wants to be re-accredited as the greatest bantamweight fighter in the world, a title he feels he never lost.

The co-main event at UFC 280, will take place in Abu Dhabi on Oct. 22. This is Dillashaw’s second fight after returning to the UFC from a USADA suspension of two years for failing a drug testing.

Dillashaw gave up his belt and publicly admitted that he had used EPO. In July 2021, he returned to competition with a split victory over Cory Sandhagen. This was one of the most memorable fights that year. He currently holds the No. 3 spot in the MMA Fighting Global Rankings.

Due to the circumstances, he sees Sterling as holding a championship that would otherwise belong to Dillashaw.

“When I’m champ again it’s going to be great,” Dillashaw told ESPN. “I never left. This weight group has never seen me lose my belt. Yeah, I was stripped, but I never actually physically lost it. People forget how dominant I was because I hadn’t been in there. I hadn’t been performing. There are many records I have in the bantamweight category, but they often forget because it is so long.

“I’m going to need to remind everyone who is the best, who is the most pound-for-pound, and who is the 135-pound GoAT. I’m here .”

Dillashaw has three successful defenses across two runs with the UFC bantamweight title, but did lose it once in the cage against Dominick Cruz in a January 2016 bout. The two never rematched and Dillashaw went on to regain the title with a knockout of Cody Garbrandt at UFC 217.

In the lead-up to his fight with Sterling, the champion has lobbed plenty of verbal grenades in Dillashaw’s direction, including recently telling MMA Fighting that he expects Dillashaw to be “souped up” at UFC 280. Dillashaw points to his rivalry with Cruz as being key to dealing with pre-fight drama.

” I try to not get too sick when fighting,” Dillashaw stated. It’s a fact that I can fight more effectively when I am relaxed and having fun. After a fight with Dominick Cruz in a grudge, one of my early lessons was that I can just let things go. You’ve got to find your own mental stability on where you perform best and me, it’s getting out there and showing off and having a good time.

” I feel that if I have to build something, he is already making excuses for why I will beat him. He’s also trying to use mental warfare to win me over .”

Also on the UFC 280 card is a key bantamweight bout between former champion Petr Yan and popular contender Sean O’Malley. With many other possible challengers, including Sandhagen and Merab Dvalishvili waiting, the winner of this bout will be a strong candidate for next year’s title fight.

Sterling must be cleared by Dillashaw before he can make any plans for the future, but Dillashaw is already excited about building upon his legacy and a third title.

“It is very exciting to see the evolution of this weight class,” Dillashaw stated. “It’s always been a super exciting weight class, we’ve always had guys getting out there and banging. High energy, lots of technique, tons of knockouts, so it’s a weight class that’s always been very entertaining and now we’ve got the personalities to back it up. The list is endless for me to defend my belt against once I get it back.”