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T.J. Dillashaw: Two-year layoff was a ‘blessing in disguise,’ I don’t have to fight for money now

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Former UFC champion TJ Dillashaw sees an upside in his recent two-year suspension.

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For a professional fighter in their prime, a two-year layoff is akin to a liver shot; it can be difficult to recover from. But for T.J. Dillashaw, there are some upsides to it.

The former UFC bantamweight champion spoke to TUF 1 alum Mike Swick about it on a recent episode of the Real Quick podcast. Dillashaw said his time on the sidelines allowed him to focus on several business ventures that have given him financial stability.

“It was a blessing in disguise. I got both my shoulders fixed,” he said. “I don’t have to come back and fight for money now, which is pretty sweet.

“To have that stress of going out there and fighting and winning because you need to put some money on the table and be able to keep this roof over our head and keep my finances going. That’s amazing, going in there and not have that stress.”

Dillashaw served a two-year suspension after testing positive for EPO in connection with his flyweight title fight with Henry Cejudo in early 2019. To his credit, the 35-year-old fighter had repeatedly expressed regret towards his actions, and he continues to do so to this day.

“I’ve laid it out there as much as I’ve possibly could. I made a giant mistake,” Dillashaw candidly said. ‘I wanted to go down a weight class that my body wasn’t letting me. I full-blown went anemic and didn’t want to get out of bed. I’m supposed to be fighting for a second world title, trying to be the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world, and I didn’t want to get out of bed.

“I didn’t want to train, I just wanted to sleep all day long. I knew something wasn’t right. I became full-blown anemic, didn’t want to bail out of the fight, it was a big payday, a big opportunity, and took the shortcut. And I guess me just sitting here.. the biggest thing I want anyone to take away, as well as myself, is that there are no f—ng shortcuts.

“I’ve learned that through wrestling my whole life, my dad’s taught it to me that there are no shortcuts and it will come around and bite you in the ass. And karma’s a bitch, man. I got it to the fullest. I lost the fight that I knew I was the better fighter, I lost it in 30 seconds. I went on a two-year suspension. It could’ve been worse, the way it went down.”

The sports world can be unforgiving towards proven PED users, and justifiably so. But after taking his licks and doing his time, Dillashaw has this message for his detractors.

“I got what I deserved, I did my time, and anyone who wants to talk shit afterwards… they can say whatever they want until I’m in there in front of them and they remember how good I am,” he said.

“They can say whatever they want about what I did, and how I got there, and maybe they thought I did it further in the past which is complete bullshit. It’s like, what, I just forgot how to cheat and just got caught this one time? It’s ridiculous.”