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T.J. Dillashaw says return from knee surgery is ‘taking a little bit longer than I wanted’

The former champion still needs time to recuperate from knee surgery. 

T.J. Dillashaw expected a ‘very speedy recovery’ from knee surgery, but the former two-time UFC bantamweight champion has revealed it is taking much longer.

This past July, Dillashaw returned to the Octagon at UFC Vegas 32, where he met Cory Sandhagen in what was considered a No. 1 contender fight. During a grappling exchange in the first round, the 35-year-old found himself on the receiving end of a heel hook by Sandhagen and heard a pop in his left knee as it was applied. The pop resulted in a torn meniscus and PCL that required surgery, which he underwent in August.

Though surgery went well, Dillashaw has seen his recovery delayed a bit. In a recent interview with Brett Okamoto of ESPN, he said his knee was far more damaged than previously thought, so his timeframe for a return has since been extended.

“[I’m] not training full time, not full go’s, that’s for sure,” said Dillashaw. “Actually, taking longer than I hoped to get back to full recovery. It’s on track, though. I didn’t realize how much work I was going to have to get done. I didn’t realize how beat up my knee was. I knew what I tore and things like that, and after I watched the video on what the doctor actually did — I messed it up really bad, especially that meniscus and stuff.

“So, it’s been taking a little bit longer than I wanted,” continued Dillashaw. “I almost have full range of motion to get my heel to my butt and things like that. Strength is there. Just got to make sure I’m safe about getting those full motions in. Don’t want to set myself back. I can’t be in a rush to get in there because I’m going to hurt myself again.”

Because he does not want to rush himself, Dillashaw did not give a specific date for his next fight. However, he mentioned that it could be sometime in the middle of the year. By then, the No. 2 ranked contender can only hope there is a more definite ending between Aljamain Sterling and Petr Yan in their upcoming title unification at UFC 273.

If Sterling vs. Yan II ends without controversy, then Dillashaw plans on meeting the winner to reclaim the championship.

“I wouldn’t say an exact time frame, but I imagine probably halfway through the year,” said Dillashaw. “I haven’t even gotten into full training yet. I’m able to hit mitts. I’ve been doing a lot of strength and conditioning. I haven’t done any kind of grappling whatsoever. That’s probably the last thing that I’ll feel comfortable doing. And then start thinking about getting into a camp.

“First, I have to make sure that everything holds up and then think about getting into a camp. So, no exact timelines but I mean the way my weight class is right now, I’ve got time.”