Former two-time bantamweight champion T.J. Dillashaw entered the UFC 280 main event against champion Aljamain Sterling with an injured shoulder. Early in the opening round, Dillashaw separated his shoulder and barely made it out of the first frame.
Between rounds Dillashaw’s cornerman popped his shoulder back in place and he went out in the second round. It didn’t take long for his shoulder to become dislocated a second time. Sterling took Dillashaw down in both rounds and finished him in the second via punches.
“I wasn’t super surprised that it happened. I’m just pissed that it happened so fast and that it didn’t go back in like I hoped it would,” Dillashaw said on The MMA Hour. “It’s sore now. I’m scheduled to get surgery next Tuesday.”
T.J. Dillashaw originally injured his shoulder while coaching The Ultimate Fighter
Following the fight, Dillashaw revealed that he had dealt with the injury throughout training camp. Many questioned why he would accept the fight knowing that he was injured. He also disclosed when he originally damaged his shoulder.
“I got surgery back in 2019 when I got suspended because I’ve been dealing with shoulder issues since 2017. I blew my shoulder out when I was coaching The Ultimate Fighter doing the Coaches Challenge playing tether ball on a balance beam above a pool. I like blew my left shoulder out. I fell off and went to catch myself on the balance beam to get back up as fast as I could to keep playing,” Dillashaw explained.
“I got that fixed back in 2019,” continued Dillashaw. “I don’t know if it just didn’t take or when I injured it again… It’s going to be an extensive surgery on Tuesday.”
Following surgery, Dillashaw expects to be back training in six to seven months. He was aware of the injury at the beginning of the year.
“Six months after my knee surgery I was getting back into heavy strength and conditioning and doing full body strength and conditioning, mainly upper body, though. I noticed that I had weakness in my left arm. Pretty dramatic weakness compared to my right. I thought it was possible nerve, some sort of nerve issue which I had back in college and back in 2016 when I was fighting,” Dillashaw said.
Dillashaw explained why he choose to fight Sterling at UFC 280
He had an MRI done in January revealing no nerve damage, but showed multiple issues with his shoulder joint. Not wanting to go through another surgery, Dillashaw opted to try and fight through the injury.
“It wasn’t a nerve thing. It was my shoulder. Knowing that, was like, yeah, you need surgery to fix that, but my shoulder felt alright. It was a little bit weak. I wasn’t going to go through that. I just came off knee surgery and I’m looking to get back in there. That was January. February maybe. I don’t remember.”
Dillashaw has received criticism for going into the UFC 280 title match with an injury. He’s been accused of just seeking a paycheck. The former two-time champion explained why he made the decision to fight injured.
“Aljamain Sterling fights [Petr] Yan (at UFC 273 in April) and calls me out. I’m excited. I start getting back to work. I’m hitting mitts. I throw a big left hook on the bag, just a punching bag, and I tweaked my left shoulder. Something where it was just hurting. I knew I had a tear and maybe just aggravated it,” he said.
“I was getting a bunch of body work done, kept working out. I don’t know, come the end of May I was out at Duane Ludwig’s. I just threw like a double-jab, like a jab high, a jab low, and I just felt my shoulder seize up. I knew I really messed it up at that point.”
Despite the injury, Dillashaw was confident that he could defeat Sterling and win the belt back.
“At this point, I don’t know what, but I know I’m going to be fighting Aljamain, and the only thing that was really affected was striking,” said Dillashaw. “I was kind of thinking, look, I don’t want to go out and get surgery. I’m out for another year. It would be the third surgery on my left shoulder. Who knows, this could be like a career ender. I don’t want to have to go through that situation. I’m going through with the fight. It only affected my striking, and I thought this is a perfect matchup. Aljamain’s striking is garbage anyways. He’s not very dangerous. I can go into this fight. I’ve got plenty of stuff I could do.
“I’ve fought with this injury before,” continued Dillashaw. “I won a world title with my shoulder like this. I defended my world title with my shoulder like this. I lost to [Henry] Cejudo with it and then got it fixed. It’s kind of like, I’ve dealt with this situation. I’ve won world titles. I’m going to do the same thing. I’m the most competitive man. I’m addicted to being on top and getting my belt back. I was able to bury that feeling of not being adequate. Just bury it down deep and never talk about and just get it done.”
“I felt like the opportunity was too good fighting Aljamain. I don’t think he’s the best bantamweight in the division. It was the perfect way for me to get my belt back,” added Dillashaw. “I thought I’d be able to go out there and get it done.”