Returning T.J. Dillashaw wants title fight or top five opponent: ‘The ultimate goal is to be champion’

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Despite his long layoff, T.J. Dillashaw isn’t looking for a tune-up fight.

The former two-time UFC bantamweight champion is looking to pick up right where he left off and face the winner of the title fight between champion Petr Yan and Aljamain Sterling, which takes place at UFC 259 on March 6.

Dillashaw (16-4 MMA, 12-4 UFC), who was stripped of his bantamweight title, is coming off a two-year USADA suspension for EPO and has been eligible to compete since January. Though he doesn’t have a fight booked yet, he’s happy to jump straight into a title fight on his return.

“I’m ready to go straight for the belt, if that’s the opportunity that comes at me because I know Yan wants it.” Dillashaw told Mike Swick on the “Real Quick with Mike Swick” podcast. “He’s already been vocally talking about it and we’ll see what happens on March 6 when he fights Sterling. He’s got a tough test ahead of him, but that’s the fight he wants. I didn’t leave this sport by losing my belt. He knows there’s a lot of speculation if he’s the real champ because he hasn’t beaten the champion to get that belt, so he wants it. As well as that, I’m the biggest draw for him right now to try to fight.”

Dillashaw said he hopes the fact he’s been out of action for so long will actually play in his favor and, if Yan retains his title on March 6, the former champion is hopeful that Yan will want to face him next.

“Maybe he’s thinking me coming back for my first fight might be the best time to catch me as well, too. To try and catch me slipping. But I mean, that’s what I want. The ultimate goal for me is to be the champion. The greatest things come to you when you’re champion, the goal is to be champion, so why not get out there and get it done.”

If Dillashaw doesn’t get the title fight, he’s not short of options. With the likes of Cory Sandhagen and Rob Font both calling him out, the former champion said he’s willing to take out any top-ranked opponent to regain his throne.

“I’m in a good situation,” Dillashaw said. “I think everyone in the top five has called me out. I want to come back and fight the best. I’m 35 years old now, I’ve got a lot of things in life going on, so I want to come back and prove that I’m the best bantamweight of all time, and I want to come back and fight the best. If that’s for the belt right away then so be it. If that’s fighting someone else in the top five, awesome.

“Every person that’s called me out, I’ve said yes to the UFC, so that’s just showing them that I’m eager to get back in there. So it doesn’t really matter as long as it’s someone that’s at the top of the game, because I’m gonna climb up and get that belt back fast.”

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