T.J. Dillashaw returns to UFC with a bang after TWO-YEAR drug ban as he beats Cory Sandhagen by split decision… with Khabib Nurmagomedov now calling for a potential title fight in Russia beween the 35-year-old and Petr Yan
- T.J. Dillashaw has his eyes on winning the bantamweight division once more
- The American beat compatriot Cory Sandhagen 48-47, 47-48, 48-47
- Dillashaw then said he’d be happy to fight anyone in the top five in the division
- Sandhagen felt he had done enough to win the contest – but his rival’s strength
- The winner of Petr Yan and Aljamain Sterling could be the ideal opponent
- Khabib Nurmagomedov wants Yan to fight Dillashaw in Russia next year
T.J. Dillashaw has his eyes firmly set on returning to the top of the bantamweight division after winning his first competitive fight for almost three years following his return from a drugs ban as he defeated Cory Sandhagen in a split decision in Las Vegas.
The 35-year-old was handed the two-ban in April 2019 after testing positive for EPO, relinquishing his UFC Bantamweight Championship title in the process having defended the belt in August the previous year against Cody Garbrandt.
But on his return to the 135-pound division, Dillashaw just edged five tight five-minute rounds to record the narrowest of victories, 48-47, 47-48, 48-47.
TJ Dillashaw claimed the narrowest of victories over Cory Sandhagen on his return to UFC
The 35-year-old was returning from a two-year drugs ban after testing positive for EPO
The former bantamweight champion now has his eyes firmly fixed on another title fight
Sandhagen had the opportunity to capitalise after opening up a cut with a ferocious right hand in the second round.
However, Dillashaw’s ability to push Sandhagen into the fence proved instrumental in securing victory.
Speaking after the contest about his title ambitions, Dillashaw said: ‘Daddy’s getting that belt easy. Easy money for that belt right now.
‘As long as (Petr) Yan and (current Bantamweight Champion Aljamain) Sterling get that fight on pretty quick, I wanna fight. Otherwise, I’ll take someone else in the top five. I’m here to fight.’
Sandhagen was disappointed at the judges’ overall decision but was impressed by Dillashaw’s durability, saying: ‘I knew I made some mistakes early. I adjusted and I didn’t take any serious damage the whole time.
‘He was kicking my legs, but they weren’t compromising me at all. I didn’t expect him to take a shot the way he was taking a shot.
‘I think a lot of those shots knock people out. I got him hurt a number of times, I wasn’t hurt at all. I should’ve done better though. I should’ve won.’
Khabib Nurmagomedov is eager for a 2022 title fight in Russia between Dillashaw and Petr Yan
However, Yan will need to beat current Bantamweight Champion Aljamain Sterling in October
Other than Yan and Sterling, other opponents in the top five include Rob Font and Marlon Moraes. Sandhagen is the other.
After watching the fight, Yan tweeted: Respect to the warrior @TJ Dillashaw Beating you has always been my goal. This is my division now’.
Former Lightweight Champion Khabib Nurmagomedov, now a promoter, is eager for UFC glory to return to Russia, posting: Yan vs TJ 2022 in Russia’.
Meanwhile, fellow former lightweight belt-holder Rafael dos Anjos tweeted: ‘@TJ Dillashaw showed a lot of heart! Great win! Congrats!!’