In the aftermath of UFC 280, there were attempts to present T.J. Dillashaw as a sympathetic character. The most persistent talking point was that the injured Dillashaw went into his bout opposite UFC bantamweight champion Aljamain Sterling because he “needed the money.” That’s a nice spin on the situation. Unfortunately, it goes against what Dillashaw himself has said and the fighter’s past actions.
Following his TKO loss to Aljamain Sterling, Dillashaw stood for his post-fight interview with UFC commentator Daniel Cormier and said, “I’ve got to apologize to the weight class. I kinda held it up. I completely blew my shoulder out at the end of April, as soon as I started getting ready for this, and probably dislocated a good 20 times during training camp.”
As far as apologies go, Dillashaw’s was shallow at best. At its worst, it showed his selfishness.
A few days after the event, Dillashaw spoke to ESPN about his reasons for not only booking a fight — remember Dillashaw blew his shoulder out in April, but the fight wasn’t announced until June — while injured, but staying on the UFC 280 card after his shoulder popped out “20 times.”
“It was hard to decide so far out, because it wasn’t as bad,” Dillashaw said. “As I got closer and I’m three weeks out, it’s like, ‘Man, this isn’t looking good.’ I’m three weeks out, now I’m going to ruin the whole card. It’s like damned if you do, damned if you don’t. Say I’m two weeks out and I say my shoulder is too bad, then I’m going to get so much s*** for pulling out of the fight, to where if I pulled out way in advance, that’s not the end of the world, but my shoulder wasn’t that bad then. It’s a culmination of things that happened that really led to that situation.”
First, the idea that Dillashaw pulling out with an injury would have ruined the card is laughable and egotistical. Even if the UFC couldn’t have found an opponent for Sterling on short notice, UFC 280 would have gone on without a hitch and still would have been one of the year’s best fight cards. In my opinion, by staying on the card and fighting with one arm, Dillashaw hurt the event far more than he helped it.
Second, Dillashaw said he “completely blew my shoulder out at the end of April.” He knew he needed surgery, and was it really not “that bad”? Dillashaw said he fought with dislocated shoulders before and things worked out. Was that luck? Either way, it seems like a weak justification for doing the wrong thing and getting the desired result.
And if Dillashaw really needed to accept this fight because he needed the money, that’s mainly on him.
Dillashaw was the UFC bantamweight champion when he decided he wanted to fight for the UFC flyweight title to satisfy his ego. Dillashaw lost that via knockout, tested positive for PEDs, gave up his bantamweight belt and sat out two years thanks to a USADA suspension.
After getting caught using PEDs, Dillashaw cost himself at least one guaranteed UFC champion purse payday and two years’ worth of checks, and I assume at least some sponsorship money too. There’s no one Dillashaw can blame for losing that income other than himself.
There are a couple of fighters who fans can sympathize with on the same UFC 280 fight card, Belal Muhammad and Beneil Dariush come to mind since they both deserve title fights but seem to be getting overlooked, but Dillashaw? No, there’s no way he’s a sympathetic character.
Dillashaw is a victim of his hubris. He’s not a sympathetic character.