Dillashaw comfortable as villain: 'I'm sure there are fans still mad at me'
TJ Dillashaw will make his first Octagon appearance in two-and-a-half years Saturday, and the ex-bantamweight champion has no illusions about how the UFC world will view him following a ban for performance-enhancing drugs.
"I'm sure there are fans still mad at me. I've learned throughout my career that no matter what, I'll be the villain," Dillashaw told ESPN's Brett Okamoto. "Especially that narrative of me going against my old team, Team Alpha Male, years ago, and now the failed drug test.
"I'm gonna have it, but that's just the reality of being in the limelight. Look at Conor McGregor. Everybody hated him until he became the man; now everyone wants to hate on him again. It's just the name of the game. I'm going to go out and win this fight and everyone is gonna f------ forget about what happened."
The 35-year-old is looking for redemption after the United States Anti-Doping Agency suspended him for two years in April 2019 for using recombinant human erythropoietin (EPO).
Dillashaw tested positive ahead of an unsuccessful attempt to move down to flyweight and challenge then-champion Henry Cejudo in January 2019. The UFC then forced him to relinquish his bantamweight belt.
But with No. 3 bantamweight Cory Sandhagen as his opponent in the main event of UFC Fight Night in Las Vegas, Dillashaw could immediately propel himself back into title contention with a win.
Sandhagen is coming off consecutive spectacular knockout wins over Marlon Moraes and Frankie Edgar, and Dillashaw is eager to immediately test his skills against one of the division's elite talents.
"I turned down tuneup fights to take this fight. I didn't want them. Waste of time," said Dillashaw. "Maybe a tuneup fight helps out your wallet - you can make some quick cash - but you can't think of any fight as a tuneup fight.
"I don't care if I'm facing a guy making his debut; you've gotta treat it like a title fight. I have to treat every fight like it's the biggest fight in the world."