Former UFC champion TJ Dillashaw anticipates midyear return following rehab from left knee surgery

TJ Dillashaw is currently recovering from knee surgery. He expects to be back in the Octagon by mid-year, but he will fight for a title.

Dillashaw, 35 years old, had surgery on his left leg last August to fix a torn meniscus and repair a torn PLL. He sustained the injuries in the first round after Cory Sandhagen won the decision.

Dillashaw initially hoped to return in the early part of this year. He had not sustained any injury to his ACL in his knee. He is now looking at sometime within the next six to 12 months, but that was too optimistic.

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“It’s on track, I just didn’t realize how much work I would have to get done,”Dillashaw spoke to ESPN. “I didn’t realize how beat up my knee was. I knew what I tore but once I watched the video of what [the surgeon] did to me, I messed it up really bad. I almost have a full range of motion. Strength is there. I’ve just gotta make sure I’m safe about getting those full motions.

“I can’t give a time frame, but I would guess that it would be halfway through the year. I can hit mitts, strength, and conditioning. I haven’t tried grappling yet. It’s not something I feel comfortable with again. Then I need to think about joining a camp.”

The timing could actually work out well for Dillashaw (17-4). Current UFC bantamweight champion Aljamain Sterling is likely to fight interim champ Petr Yan in a unification bout in April, and Dillashaw believes he will fight the winner. He was forced to relinquish the 135-pound title in early 2019 after he tested positive for erythropoietin (EPO) and received a two-year suspension. He returned from that suspension in the fight against Sandhagen.

“Let’s be real, I was a champion when I left.” Dillashaw said. “I came back, fought No. After a 2.5 year layoff, I returned to fight the No. 1 contender. I was able beat him. What more can I do? Nothing will get me up and excited but getting my belt back. That’s my goal. There is nothing else I can focus my attention on.”

Dillashaw fights out of Southern California and acknowledged Jose Aldo’s recent callouts to fight. He stated that he is looking forward to it someday but only after he regains his title.

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