Sterling captured the title in March 2021, defeating then-champion Petr Yan by disqualification after Yan delivered an illegal knee to a downed opponent that rendered Sterling unable to continue. It was the first time in UFC history that a fighter became champion by disqualification, and the legitimacy of Sterling’s championship was called into question by more than a few.
The “Funk Master” silenced his critics at UFC 273 on April 9 by defeating Yan by split decision in the rematch.
Dillashaw is a former two-time bantamweight champion. He first won the title by finishing Renan Barao at UFC 173 in May 2014. He successfully defended the championship twice before losing to Dominick Cruz by a questionable split decision in January 2016.
After the loss to Cruz, Dillashaw fought his way back to a championship bout against his former teammate Cody Garbrandt at UFC 217. He stopped Garbrandt in the second round to become a two-time 135-pound division champion.
After defeating Garbrandt in a rematch in August 2018, Dillashaw dropped down to the flyweight division for a title bout against Henry Cejudo. He was stopped by Cejudo in 32 seconds.
Dillashaw tested positive to the banned substance Erythropoietin (EPO) before and after the fight against Cejudo. He was suspended for two years and returned in July 2021 defeating Cory Sandhagen by split decision to put himself back in line for a title bout.
Who’ll get the next title shot against Sterling isn’t exactly set in stone, but Dillashaw appears to be the frontrunner. If and when they meet, Dillashaw doesn’t think Sterling poses much danger.
“I’m not too worried about Sterling,” Dillashaw told ESPN. “That callout, it’s a pretty easy fight for me, to be honest.”
Dillashaw went on to say that Sterling won’t be champion for much longer and that he doesn’t view Sterling as ‘champion caliber.’
“I mean, congratulations to him, implementing his game plan in the fight (with Yan). He showed some weaknesses in Yan, but stylistically that fight is perfect for me, so he can say anything he wants, but he ain’t gonna be champion for much longer.”
“He’s good, don’t get me wrong,” Dillashaw said of Sterling. “He’s got some attributes. He wouldn’t be where he is without being good, but he’s definitely not champion caliber. The guys that I’ve fought already in the past [are] much better than he is, a lot more dangerous. There’s no danger fighting Sterling. Has he ever even knocked anyone out? I don’t know. I didn’t even look at his record.
“It’s a guy that you don’t have to be worried about. There’s no way he’s gonna be out-grappling me. His striking is straight pathetic, so yeah, I’m surprised that he is where he is, and stylistically it’s a great fight for me.”