Former UFC bantamweight champion T.J. Dillashaw still believes he can be champion again, especially if Aljamain Sterling is holding the belt.
Despite a first-round loss to Sterling at UFC 280, Dillashaw isn’t ready to concede “Funkmaster” is the best bantamweight in the world. Were it not for the severe shoulder injury that hobbled him early in their fight, he believes he would have captured the belt a third time. He previously called Sterling the “most beatable” champ on the UFC’s roster.
“I feel like he was gifted the belt to begin with, the way he handled it, and then got squeaked by with a win [in a rematch with ex-champ Petr Yan at UFC 273],” the ex-champ said on The MMA Hour. “Look man, he’s a great athlete, he’s on a great win streak, he’s gotten to the top, but I don’t think he’s the best champion we’ve got out there. I don’t think he’s the best in the division, especially in the division we have, and that was an opportunity I wasn’t going to let slip through my fingers, even though it did. But yes, my opinion does not changed.”
Asked who in the UFC’s roster would beat Sterling, Dillashaw pointed to inside the champ’s circle.
“I think his teammate, Merab (Dvalishvili), beats him,” Dillashaw said. “He does have some strengths. There’s guys at the top that he can beat because their grappling isn’t where it should be. So maybe I’m just thinking about it personally and how I match up against him, because he matches up great against some of the guys that won’t be able to deal with his wrestling. So he could get some good wins and stay on top with the right matchups, but he’s not very dangerous. He’s not a guy that’s going to come and knock you out. He will try to dry-hump you to the best of his ability, for the most part.”
Dillashaw, 36, added that former two-division champ Henry Cejudo, who appears to be setting up for a comeback, would “easily” beat Sterling.
“I think that’s a great matchup for Henry Cejudo,” Dillashaw said. “He’s just got the wrestling pedigree, and his striking is, I think, a lot better than Aljamain’s. Aljamain doesn’t have much structure. I guess his funkiness works for him, because he doesn’t throw things the way you’re supposed to, and he doesn’t set up his kicks – 90 percent of his strikes are kicks.”
Dillashaw said one of the reason he fought hurt – and insulted Sterling’s striking in the buildup to UFC 280 – was to goad the champ into a striking battle that favored him. But now, he will be sidelined until healthy once again. Set to undergo surgery this week to repair his injured shoulder, he said it will be his third such procedure and keep him from training for at least six months. He dismissed the idea of retirement, however.
In the wake of Dillashaw’s loss, Cody Garbrandt, called for a trilogy showdown after going 0-2 in back-to-back fights with his former teammate. Dillashaw rolled his eyes when asked for his reaction.
“I don’t even look into it,” he said. “That makes zero sense to me at all. How’s that guy even still in the UFC. He’s lost five of his last six fights. I’m fighting for world titles. It’s a reach. He’ll probably have two losses before I even come back. It won’t even be worth my effort.”