Former UFC bantamweight champion T.J. Dillashaw did score a split decision win over Cory Sandhagen is his return after two years away from the Octagon. However, the 35-year-old believes he could have done an even better job and finished the ‘Sandman’, had it not been for a knee injury he suffered in the fight.
On Bruce Buffer’s podcast ‘It’s Time’, Dillashaw mentioned how his back takes could have been more effective if his leg were healthy. Nonetheless, he is still satisfied with the way the fight developed, because he was able to showcase more of skills and state of mind in a 25-minute battle.
“Cory is really lucky that my knee was messed up when I took his back so many times, because it would have been a different story if I was actually able to lift him or throw my hooks in. When I took his back, I tried doing a couple of trips. But every time – I remember lifting him in the second round, I took his back and my knee completely buckled on me and I was like ‘Oh, we can’t do that anymore.”
“So a lot of those back controls would have been – I believe I would have finished him if my leg would have been healthy.” Dillashaw continued. “But you know what? Maybe it’s better I didn’t. I got to show that I have that grit, I have that comeback mentality, I have that fight-through-adversity, and I showed that my cardio is second to none. No one is going to outpace me. I work harder than everyone. So maybe it worked out in my favor. I built a lot of fans back in that fight.”
Dillashaw has since learned that his injured knee is due to a bucket handle tear of the lateral meniscus and a lateral collateral ligament rupture. The ailments will require surgery, but recovery time should not be very long.
Dillashaw (17-4) served a two-year USADA suspension after testing positive for banned substance EPO, which stimulates red blood cell production in the bone marrow, on January 19, 2019. That day, the 35-year-old lost his bantamweight belt to Henry Cejudo via TKO, but before that he was on a four-fight winning streak, with victories over Cody Garbrandt, John Lineker and Raphael Assuncao.