Well, despite his well-documented interest in a championship outing upon his Octagon return later this year, former two-time UFC bantamweight champion, T.J. Dillashaw seems to be earmarked for a title-eliminator return instead.
Recently completing his two-year retroactive suspension issued by anti-doping agency, USADA, Dillashaw was eligible to return to active-competition on January 19th. — after he was slapped with a two-year ban amid a positive test result for the banned substance, EPO (erythropoietin).
Returning both pre and post-fight positive results for the banned substance, Dillashaw headlined the promotion’s first event under their partnership with broadcast leader, ESPN back in January of 2019– dropping a quickfire knockout defeat to then flyweight champion, Henry Cejudo as he attempted to become a two-weight world champion held simultaneously. Off the back of the loss and suspension, Dillashaw relinquished the bantamweight championship.
With speculation ramping up in regards to Dillashaw’s possible landing spot upon his return to the UFC, the promotion initially failed to rule him out of contention regarding a possible immediate title shot in his first fight back, with president, Dana White detailing how they’d consult Dillashaw to see if that would interest him.
Current undisputed champion, Petr Yan, who attempts his first title defence this weekend at UFC 259 against surging contender, Aljamain Sterling, has also continously claimed that he’d rather fight Dillashaw after he stops the streak of Sterling, than fight the number-two ranked, Cory Sandhagen next.
Whilst Sandhagen has campaigned himself for a title matchup against either Yan or a rematch with challenger, Sterling — he’s maintained he’d welcome Dillashaw back to the sport if a victory over the Angels Camp would guarantee him a title opportunity.
Speaking with ESPN MMA reporter, Brett Okamoto recently, White claimed that the organization were currently working on a matchup for Dillashaw — with an unnamed contender, however, the victor of that earmarked meeting would likely challenge for gold with a win.
“We’re working on something for T.J. (Dillashaw) right now that would line him up [in a fight where] the winner of that fight would fight for the title next,” White said.
A two-time undisputed bantamweight titleholder, the Bang Muay Thai trainee began the second reign over the division at UFC 217 in November of 2017, stopping former Team Alpha MMA teammate, Cody Garbrandt with a second round knockout.
In an immediate rematch, at UFC 227 in August the following year, Dillashaw finished Garbrandt with a first round barrage at the fence after a knee and follow up strikes.