Ahead of their Oct. 22 co-headliner at Etihad Stadium in Abu Dhabi, bantamweight champion Sterling (21-3 MMA, 13-3 UFC) told “The MMA Hour” that he believes Dillashaw (17-4 MMA, 13-4 UFC) is not a clean athlete.
It’s no secret why Sterling would make that claim in the aftermath of Dillashaw’s positive drug test in 2019 that led to him being stripped of the 135-pound belt and earned him a two-year suspension from UFC competition. Dillashaw, however, has been tested 53 times by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency since his original failure, and without issue, according to the company testing database.
Dillashaw, 36, who has repeatedly claimed his past test failure was the result of taking a substance to assist in a weight cut down to the flyweight division, said there’s an easy explanation why Sterling is making such accusations.
“He’s got to say something to downplay how good I am,” Dillashaw told MMA Junkie on Monday. “I’m going to whoop his ass coming up soon in 10 weeks. He’s got to make some sort of excuse of why I’m winning, or who I am and why I am. It don’t bother me. It’s just a bunch of bullsh*t excuses. When I beat his ass he’s going to be like, ‘See.'”
With the fight signed and set for UFC 280, Dillashaw is adamant no amount of pre-planted “excuses” from Sterling will change his fate inside the octagon.
Dillashaw said he has no personal issues with “The Funkmaster,” but he does admit the reigning champion has some character traits that rub him the wrong way.
“I never had anything against the guy until now I’m fighting him,” Dillashaw said. “The way he kind of handled winning the belt the first time and just continuing his persona outright. He’s a kind of not a likable guy, and he’s kind of rolling with taking the cringe to the next level. Nothing personally against him, other than the fact he acts like a dipsh*t.
“I’ve never tried to get into too much personal stuff, trying to bring in the reality TV drama into everything. I try to stick somewhat to the sport. I don’t have time to really worry about who he is as a person or what he’s got going on. I worry about who he is as a fight, what holes he has in his game and how I’m going to whoop his ass. That’s why I get paid. Some people get paid to talk sh*t, but it’s just not what I’m into. I’m into talking sh*t about me being the best.”
Despite the suspension that cost him his title and took him away from the sport, Dillashaw said he’s never lost confidence about being the best in the world. He hasn’t lost a fight in the bantamweight division since January 2016, and that was a controversial split decision to Dominick Cruz. His previous defeat to that was another debated split decision against Raphael Assuncao in October 2013, which he later avenged in a rematch.
Dillashaw expects this matchup with Sterling, who is on a seven-fight winning streak in his own right and coming off a first title defense against Petr Yan at UFC 273 in April, to highlight his greatness in a big way. He thinks his skill set is a level above in all areas, but when it comes to the striking, he sees things as utterly lopsided.
“I absolutely have the advantage in striking,” Dillashaw said. “I believe I have the advantage everywhere. He is really good once he gets on the back with control and things like that. I haven’t been impressed with his wrestling. He’s a (Division III) wrestler, and I’ve been wrestling D1. I think his takedown defense is under 50 percent. His striking is – it’s embarrassing that he’s the champion (with) his striking that is that bad. It’s God awful. He uses his awkwardness to his advantage, but when you start throwing with him he just cowers.
“I don’t know. There’s a lot there. I can out-grapple you, I can out-strike you. I’m going to put on a clinic.”
If Dillashaw is able to dethrone Sterling at UFC 280, he would join Randy Couture as just the second fighter in company history to have three title reigns in a single weight class. Between that pursuit of history and the recent years of adversity, there are a huge number of driving forces behind Dillashaw, and he intends to take them out on Sterling.
“I feel like I’m just going to break him,” Dillashaw said. “He’s going to be one of those ones that’s going to want to quit on me, and I’ll get to choose the way I finish him. I will finish him. He’s going to break underneath me. He’s going to realize anything he’s going to try to do isn’t going to work and that I’m better everywhere. So mentally he’s just going to be shut down.”