TJ Dillashaw returns to the UFC with a bang after a TWO-YEAR drug ban as he defeats Cory Sandhagen by split decision… with Khabib Nurmagomedov now calling for a possible title fight in Russia between the 35-year-old and Petr Yan
- TJ Dillashaw has his eyes set on winning the bantamweight division again
- The American defeated compatriot Cory Sandhagen 48-47, 47-48, 48-47
- Dillashaw then said he would love to fight anyone in the top five in the division
- Sandhagen felt he had done enough to win the match, but the strength of his rival
- The winner of Petr Yan and Aljamain Sterling could be the ideal opponent
- Khabib Nurmagomedov wants Yan to fight Dillashaw in Russia next year
TJ Dillashaw has his sights set on returning to the top of the bantamweight division after winning his first competitive fight in nearly three years after returning from drug ban when he defeated Cory Sandhagen in a split decision in Las Vegas.
The 35-year-old was handed the two bans in April 2019 after testing positive for EPO, relinquishing his UFC Bantamweight Championship title in the process after defending the title against Cody Garbrandt last August.
But on his return to the 135-pound division, Dillashaw just slid five tight five-minute rounds to take the narrowest wins, 48-47, 47-48, 48-47.
TJ Dillashaw claimed smallest win over Cory Sandhagen on his return to UFC
The 35-year-old returned from a two-year drug ban after testing positive for EPO
The former bantamweight champion now has his eyes firmly on another title fight
Sandhagen had the chance to capitalize after opening a cut with a savage right hand in the second round.
However, Dillashaw’s ability to push Sandhagen into the fence proved instrumental in securing the win.
Speaking after the game about his title ambitions, Dillashaw said: “Dad gets that title easily. Easy money for that belt now.
“As long as (Petr) Yan and (current Bantamweight Champion Aljamain) Sterling get that fight going pretty quickly, I want to fight. Otherwise I’ll take someone else in the top five. I’m here to fight.’
Sandhagen was disappointed with the jury’s overall decision, but was impressed with Dillashaw’s durability, saying: ‘I knew I was making mistakes early on. I adapted and suffered no serious damage the entire time.
“He kicked my legs, but they didn’t endanger me at all. I didn’t expect him to take a shot the way he took a shot.
“I think a lot of those shots knock people out. I hurt him a number of times, I wasn’t hurt at all. However, I should have done better. I should have won.’
Khabib Nurmagomedov is eager for 2022 title fight in Russia between Dillashaw and Petr Yan
However, Yan will have to beat current Bantamweight champion Aljamain Sterling in October
Besides Yan and Sterling, Rob Font and Marlon Moraes are other opponents in the top five. Sandhagen is the other.
After seeing the fight, Yan tweeted: Respect for the warrior @TJ Dillashaw Beating you has always been my goal. This is now my division.”
Former lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov, now a promoter, is eager for UFC glory to return to Russia, with the message: 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!!’