T.J. Dillashaw: Aljamain Sterling is ‘not a dangerous fighter’

MMA Fighting

T.J. Dillashaw believes Aljamain Sterling isn’t dangerous.

In April, Sterling successfully defended his bantamweight title by winning a split decision over Petr Yan in their rematch at UFC 273. The win vindicated Sterling, who received an enormous amount of backlash for the way he won the belt. It also cemented “Funk Master” as the top bantamweight in the world.

But for Dillashaw, who was sitting cage side for the bout, it didn’t change his overall feeling about Sterling.

“He won the fight,” Dillashaw told Ariel Helwani on The MMA Hour. “The first one was kind of a s***** way to win the belt, and the way he kind of handled it made himself really hated. But still, I don’t feel like he gained that much more respect for the fact that he’s not a dangerous fighter.

“He’s not someone you have to go out there and worry about getting finished or put to sleep. I’ve always known he’s great. He’s got some great skills in what he does. But to me, if I look at him, he’s not a fighter. He’s more of an athlete, which our sport is professional athletes, but we’re all fighters and want to go out there and get that finish.”

Dillashaw will get a chance to back up his words when he challenges Sterling for the bantamweight title as the co-main event of UFC 280. For Dillashaw, it’s a fight that presents different and arguably more advantageous challenges than the one he was expecting against Yan.

“I think they both have their difficulties, just different aspects,” Dillashaw said. “When you fight someone like Yan, you’ve got to go out there and be ready for someone to get put to sleep. He’s kind of like that gangster, in your face, ready to go. When you’re fighting Aljo, you’ve got to worry about him not putting the fight where he wants it and controlling it and making it a snoozefest. So it’s a little bit different, but I think I match up really well with Aljo, to be honest.”

If everything goes to plan for Dillashaw, he will join Randy Couture as the only fighters in UFC history to win an undisputed title three times in the same weight class. The two-time bantamweight champion has big plans if he’s able to execute.

Dillashaw’s most recent loss was to Henry Cejudo in a failed bid for the flyweight title. With Cejudo set to return to action following a brief retirement, he hopes that once he wins the belt, they can run back their fight at 135 pounds.

“100 percent – how could I not?” Dillashaw said of a rematch with Cejudo. “I feel like the chips are all lining up perfectly, to be honest. Get the belt back, Cejudo’s coming out of retirement — which I knew was all bulls*** anyways. Come on, I knew from the beginning it wasn’t a real retirement, he was trying to get paid more, but it kind of backfired on him, and now he’s coming back, so kind of perfect timing.”

UFC 280 takes place Oct. 22 at Etihad Arena in Abu Dhabi.

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