‘Bitter’ 2-time UFC champ hates ‘forced’ retirement, reveals conditions for return

The former UFC bantamweight great is planning a return.

By: Milan Ordoñez | 2 months ago

T.J. Dillashaw last set foot in the Octagon at UFC 280 in October 2022. At the time, he was returning from a year-long layoff to challenge reigning champion Aljamain Sterling. 

The 37-year-old former champion ended up losing via second-round TKO and subsequently announced his retirement in April. Dillashaw also dealt with a shoulder injury, which led to a third surgery

Now, T.J. Dillashaw is looking at a possible UFC comeback, as he believes he’s still at the top of the heap at 135 pounds. 

MMA: UFC 227-Dillashaw vs Garbrandt, August 4, 2018; Los Angeles, CA, USA; TJ Dillashaw lands hits against Cody Garbrandt during UFC 227 at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports, 04.08.2018 21:46:27, 11026994, Staples Center, TJ Dillashaw, MMA PUBLICATIONxINxGERxSUIxAUTxONLY Copyright: xGaryxA.xVasquezx 11026994
IMAGO / Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

T.J. Dillashaw ‘didn’t want to retire’

In his recent guest appearance on the Jaxxon Podcast co-hosted by Quinton “Rampage” Jackson, T.J. Dillashaw admitted that the decision to retire was a bitter pill to swallow. 

“It’s been a real bitter thing,” he said (quotes by MMA Fighting). “It’s been hard for me to be around the sport recently like even helping my training partner Juan Archuleta fighting in Japan in RIZIN for the belt. 

“It’s been hard for me to wrap my head around being in the sport at the same time being forced out of it. Also, my career just kind of panned out the way it did towards the end — really just bitter, you know?”

According to Dillashaw, doctors haven’t given him a favorable response about a possible return to action. But he’s looking at other options. 

“I’m hoping — every doctor I’ve met, they’re all specialists on my shoulder, they’re all telling me they can’t put me back good enough to be able to fight again. Doctors aren’t always right but I have to have a super-extensive shoulder surgery. 

“What I’m waiting on right now are some cadaver parts. I need a cadaver shoulder head bone.”

T.J. Dillashaw downplays Aljamain Sterling’s skills

Because of his nagging shoulder injury, T.J. Dillashaw fought Sterling with one good arm. But he’s nonetheless left unimpressed with what “Funkmaster” brought to the table. 

“I was fighting a guy that I match up really well against. Aljamain Sterling had the belt — has the belt — and I don’t think he’s that great. 

“Yeah, he’s got some awesome grappling, he’s got some tricky back takes but his stand-up is just not threatening at all. I could let him hit me as hard as he wants and nothing would happen.”

MMA: UFC 280-Sterling vs Dillashaw Oct 22, 2022; Abu Dhabi, UAE; Aljamain Sterling (red gloves) and T.J. Dillashaw (blue gloves) during UFC 280 at Etihad Arena. Abu Dhabi UAE, EDITORIAL USE ONLY PUBLICATIONxINxGERxSUIxAUTxONLY Copyright: xCraigxKidwellx 20221022_jla_ooo_442
IMAGO | USA Today Network

Dillashaw remains optimistic about his full healing. And he’s already planning a possible return if he does get his shoulder moving back to normal. 

“I know that I’m still the best guy in the weight class, by far,” he said. 

“For the sport to be taken from me the way that it was, it just doesn’t sit well with me… If the shoulder’s good, man, definitely I have to get back in there. I can’t let it go out the way it did.”

T.J. Dillashaw’s recent UFC run

Dillashaw had to sit out for two years to serve a suspension after a failed drug test in 2019. Upon his UFC return, he faced top contender Cory Sandhagen, whom he defeated via split decision. 

After the loss to Sterling, the two-time UFC bantamweight champion dropped to a record of 17-5.

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About the author
Milan Ordoñez
Milan Ordoñez

Milan Ordoñez has been covering combat sports since 2012 and has been part of the Bloody Elbow staff since 2016. He’s also competed in amateur mixed martial arts and submission grappling tournaments.

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