T.J. Dillashaw will be able to compete inside the Octagon again in exactly two months.
Following Dillashaw’s first-round TKO loss to Henry Cejudo for the flyweight title, it was revealed he was flagged and suspended by USADA retroactive to January 18, 2019. The former bantamweight champion would be able to return on Jan. 18, 2021, which is coming quickly. When he returns, there are some big questions like how will do after two years away? Does he get an immediate title shot? Will he be placed back in the rankings? And, of course, who will his first fight be again, so here are some options for his return fight.
Petr Yan vs. Aljamain Sterling winner
T.J. Dillashaw has said in interviews the UFC has promised him a title shot in his UFC return. Well, if that is the case, he would fight the winner of Petr Yan vs. Aljamain Sterling which takes place at UFC 256.
Although Dillashaw was the champion when he was suspended, he has been gone for two years and should have to fight at least one top contender before getting a chance to fight for UFC gold once again.
Cory Sandhagen has made it clear he wants to be the one to welcome T.J. Dillashaw back to the Octagon. Sandhagen is likely the No. 1 contender at bantamweight and if Dillashaw wants to earn a title shot, he will need to beat someone like Sandhagen, so the fight certainly makes sense.
Stylistically, a fight against Sandhagen would be very entertaining as both Sandhagen and Dillashaw have high-level striking and footwork. It could also serve as Fight Night main event in early February.
Frankie Edgar is a top-10 bantamweight after beating Pedro Munhoz in his debut and is a big name for Dillashaw’s return.
Edgar and Dillashaw could be the main event or even a co-main event for a pay-per-view and would be a massive fight for the former champion’s return. Both Dillashaw and Edgar are getting up there in age and both could likely be one win away from a title shot. So, having them fight to earn the next title shot makes a ton of sense as either one of them fighting for UFC gold once again is good business for the Las Vegas-based promotion.
Dominick Cruz 3
Dominick Cruz and T.J. Dillashaw have one of the best rivalries in bantamweight history and they are currently 1-1 against each other so the trilogy fight makes sense.
Cruz is coming off a TKO loss to Henry Cejudo for the bantamweight title in his return to the Octagon. Since the loss, it has been uncertain if Cruz will fight again, but there is no question the trilogy against Dillashaw would likely get him excited to compete and back in the Octagon. The winner could very well earn a title shot given their legacies in the sport and both being big names. it is also a fight the fans have wanted to see for quite some time.
Just like Dominick Cruz, it is uncertain if Urijah Faber will even fight again, but if the T.J. Dillashaw fight gets offered to him, I feel like it would hard for Faber to turn it down.
Faber and Dillashaw have had a rivalry for years ever since Dillashaw left Team Alpha Male and then knocked out Cody Garbrandt in back-to-back fights. Both men have also shown interest in the fight and the timing could not be more perfect as “The California Kid” probably only has one or two more fights while it would be a good test to see how good Dillashaw will be after the layoff. The lead up to the fight would be intense and should headline a Fight Night hard.
Cole Shelton covers MMA for BJPenn.com, MMANews, and MyMMANews.com while also being the lead MMA odds writer for Sports Betting Dime