T.J. Dillashaw’s move to the 125 pound division to fight UFC flyweight champion Henry Cejudo was a bold one, but it failed to pay off for him. After losing the bout inside the first minute of the very first round in the main event at UFC Fight Night 143, the nightmare for Dillashaw now continues and he now finds himself without either of the two belts he was hoping to hold simultaneously.
Dillashaw reportedly failed a drug test according to the USADA who stated “..an in-competition test conducted by USADA on January 18, 2019 resulted in an adverse analytical finding.” Reporter Ariel Helwani tweeted out the message on Wednesday. The substance Dillashaw tested positive for has not yet been named.
Helwani also tweeted out the news that the New York State Athletic Commission has suspended Dillashaw for one year following the failed test, and has issued him a fine of $10,000.
Breaking from the NYSAC:
The New York State Athletic Commission issued a one-year suspension and $10,000 fine to TJ Dillashaw for violations relating to use of a prohibited substance. NYSAC has no further comment at this time.
— Ariel Helwani (@arielhelwani) March 20, 2019
Dillashaw also posted a statement on Instagram on Wednesday morning addressing the situation.
Obviously Dillashaw could not be more disappointed with the situation, and has a lot to work out over the upcoming year. After a loss to Henry Cejudo, Dillashaw now loses his bantamweight belt and is left in a helpless position. While his innocence may still be proved, it is likely that Dillashaw will not be fighting again any time soon.
Before Wednesday it seemed as if Cejudo and Dillashaw were nearing a rematch, and the 135 pound contenders would be waiting even longer for a title shot. All of a sudden Dillashaw has relinquished the belt and the title is now up for grabs. In a very powerful and talented division, there are several contenders that now have a chance to achieve their UFC dreams.
FIGHTERS IN THE MIX FOR THE BANTAMWEIGHT TITLE
The Bantamweight division has been heating up recently, and there were several fighters lined up hoping to get a shot at Dillashaw before the news broke. Now many of them will likely do all they can in order to fight for the vacant belt. Here are a few of the fighters that are likely to be in the mix for the title fight.
Let’s start with the fighter who defeated Dillashaw back in January. Current flyweight champion Henry Cejudo defeated T.J. Dillashaw only 32 seconds into their fight at flyweight. Dillashaw went down to 125 in order to try and take Cejudo’s belt to become the two weight champion. Cejudo smothered Dillashaw’s attack early and was able to keep him off balance with a number of heavy punches. The stoppage was a controversial one as Dillashaw appeared to be in quite a bit of trouble but told reporters after the fight he was just off balance, and was not harmed or in any serious danger when the fight was called. He expressed his frustration with the call in multiple interviews after the fight, and told reporters he was more than interested in an immediate rematch with Cejudo.
The reason Cejudo makes this list is that both fighters had mentioned a rematch at bantamweight, so Cejudo would then fight for the 135 pound title against Dillashaw. Now that Dillashaw is out, that rematch will not take place any time soon. However, if Cejudo did not want to defend his flyweight belt immediately, he could potentially try and take a shot at becoming a two-weight world champion as Dillashaw had attempted in their last fight. Cejudo has stated that he feels sorry for Dillashaw at the moment, but as the smoke clears around Dillashaw’s name and the UFC looks to set up the next title fight, Cejudo is likely to be in the mix.
Currently the top ranked fighter in the bantamweight division, Marlon Moraes has the best shot of any current bantamweight to fight for the title next. While Moraes and Dillashaw never crossed paths in the octagon, Moraes was probably next in line to fight Dillashaw after a rematch with Cejudo took place should Dillashaw have won the rematch. Moraes is currently on a four fight win streak, his most recent victory came against Raphael Assuncao who is currently ranked 2nd in the bantamweight Division. Two of his last four wins have come against top five contenders, and with a 22-5-1 professional record, Moraes has worked hard and earned his place at the top of the division. Plain and simple, with the champion now out the number one ranked contender is likely to get his shot at the title.
Moraes has also engaged in some Twitter sparring with Cejudo and it seems clear the both of them are interested in the title fight. Moraes told Ariel Helwani “That’s my fight. I’m very confident UFC will pick the right opponent for me. Cejudoweight? Tell Cejudo to stay in his lane…” Cejudo responded with a tweet of his own stating: “I was the youngest Olympic gold medalist. I am the UFC flyweight champion and I just knocked out a PED user in 32 seconds. You think I’m afraid of a World Series of Fighting former champion? Lol.” Moraes took another shot at Cejudo’s response, and it if Cejudo responds these two might be the top matchup for the title fight.
Among the Brazilians in the top five is current number two ranked contender Raphael Assuncao who is also in the conversation for a title fight. While his last fight was a loss to number one ranked Moraes, he did win their first bout in 2017 and also holds a 1-1 record against T.J. Dillashaw. Assuncao has fought in the division for years now fighting the very best and has a win against every top five contender he has faced. If Henry Cejudo does not get the shot at the title, a trilogy fight between Assuncao and Moraes for the title may be a possibility.
The number three ranked bantamweight in the world has already expressed interest in a title shot. Although he will likely be in the mix, he has suffered losses to both Assuncao and Moraes, which could hurt his chances in fighting for the title immediately. However, Sterling is on a three fight win streak and is hungry for a title shot. While you may not see him in the next fight for the belt, he will likely fight for the title in the future if he continues his win streak.
Sterling is itching to avenge his loss to number one ranked Moraes, after suffering a KO loss in their first bout. Sterling has discussed how he entered the first fight too cocky and has improved tremendously since then. He is more than willing to fight for the title, tweeting at several fighters including Pedro Munhoz and Henry Cejudo saying “Let’s scrap for it.” The Funk Master may not be first in line, but if Cejudo does not end up moving up to 135 then Sterling may be a potential matchup for Moraes. Sterling is a dangerous fighter to watch in 2019 regardless of whether or not a belt is on the line.
RACE FOR THE TITLE
The bantamweight division is in full force and will likely see some exciting battles in 2019 as the race for the belt is on. Several other contenders follow these strong 135 pound fighters, with former champion Cody Garbrandt still ranked in the top 10 and Pedro Munhoz breaking his way into the top five with a TKO win against Garbrandt at UFC 235. Munhoz is another name to remember in this division, as he will likely face a top five contender next in hopes to continue his rout to the top. Another former champion Dominick Cruz also ranks in the top five but has battled injuries all his career that continue to hinder his ability to fight, as he has not stepped in the octagon since 2016. There are countless possibilities and match-ups for the next title fight, and the division is sure to see a new champion before long.
There will not be a lack of action in the men’s bantamweight division this year, and the storyline for a crazy 2019 continues to grow stronger. A division filled with up and coming young talents, as well as some former champions determined to work their way back to the top, there are many world class fighters eyeing the title at 135 pounds.