The UFC’s return to Abu Dhabi could feature the men’s bantamweight title on the line.
Yahoo Sports’ Kevin Iole reports that reigning champion Aljamain Sterling and former champion T.J. Dillashaw are expected to co-headline UFC 280 on October 22nd in the United Arab Emirates. MMA Junkie’s Nolan King reports that the UFC is looking at that card for this matchup, but nothing is set in stone. Sterling has said recently that he won’t sign a contract to fight Dillashaw unless he gets a pay increase.
Long Island’s Sterling (21-3) is coming of a split decision win over Petr Yan at UFC 273 in his first title defense. Of course, Sterling won the title after Yan was disqualified for throwing an illegal knee to Sterling’s head while he was down. Aljo has otherwise won seven straight fights overall, including submissions over Cory Sandhagen and Cody Stamann on his way to reaching the top of the 135 lbs division.
Dillashaw (17-4) first captured the UFC bantamweight title with a famous fifth-round TKO of Renan Barao at UFC 174 in 2014. He would lose the belt to Dominick Cruz in 2016, but regain the crown when he knocked out Cody Garbrandt in 2017. Dillashaw relinquished his title in 2019 after he tested positive for EPO in his flyweight title loss to Henry Cejudo. Upon his return from his two-year ban, Dillashaw edged out Cory Sandhagen by split decision in July 2021, but missed the rest of the year while recovering from a knee injury.
What is confirmed for UFC 280 is a lightweight championship main event between Charles Oliveira and Islam Makhachev. Welterweights Belal Muhammad and the undefeated Sean Brady are also slated for this event.