T.J. Dillashaw explains EPO use that cost him his bantamweight title: “I was a shell of a man”

By Ryan Harkness - October 19, 2022

T.J. Dillashaw continues to take a lot of heat over a failed NYSAC drug test in 2019 for the performance enhancing drug EPO. Even after a two-year USADA suspension and another year and a half away getting knee surgery, MMA fans continue to hound Dillashaw with accusations that he was and probably still is a cheater.

T.J. Dillashaw during his cut to 125 pounds

Dillashaw is currently set to face Aljamain Sterling for the bantamweight belt at UFC 280. It’s the same belt that Dillashaw held until his failed drug test. And in a new interview with BT Sport, Dillashaw explained how that EPO ended up in his system and why he took it.

“To be myself,” he said. “I was a shell of a man, of who I was. I was supposed to be the baddest man on the planet. I was dropping to a weightclass that my body physically wouldn’t let me do. Full blown anemic like six to eight weeks out from the fight. Not wanting to wake up, not wanting to train, not feeling like I could live up to the biggest fight of my life. So I took an anemia medication that I knew I couldn’t, but I knew it would get me back to where I was, the fight that I wanted.”

Anemia is a condition where there’s a lack of red blood cells in the bloodstream, and one cause of that condition is excessive weight loss. Dillashaw was attempting to cut down from 135 pounds to 125 pounds to take Henry Cejudo’s flyweight title. The fight didn’t go as planned: Cejudo rung Dillashaw’s bell and swarmed him for a finish just 30 seconds into their match. Soon after, a blood sample taken before the fight tested positive for EPO.

“I’ve kind of fessed up to all that, I’ve manned up to the whole situation,” Dillashaw continued. “I knew going into it that I wasn’t supposed to be doing it, but … I was chasing something that was gonna line my pockets forever, it was gonna cement some more legacy, just something that my body wouldn’t let me do but my mind wanted me to. Just my ego, you say, right? Just my ego saying ‘F***, I’m the best, I’m gonna get this s*** done.'”

“I think that’s why I came out so fast, I admitted to everything right away before it was even announced because I wanted to get it behind me as soon as possible. I knew it was going to be a process no matter what. I knew the ridicule that was going to come with it, but that was the easiest way for me to get it behind me. It was like going to a therapist and just letting it all out.”

While T.J. Dillashaw made it clear that the whole ordeal was no picnic, at least he didn’t spend his two year suspension on Twitter.

“I guess it’s a benefit that I’m not a guy that’s on social media all the time, that I’m not tuned into that stuff,” he said. “I’ve never been that way, I’ve had to force myself to do it to help promote myself. So it’s pretty easy to shut that out that way. And just the fact that I was one of the most drug tested athletes in the UFC. Just put some logic behind it, did I just forget how to cheat and got caught? You know, I mean if I was cheating all those years, I just decided to not do it the same way?”

“And the fact that they went back and retested all my samples from all the way back to 2016, put me under a microscope and showed the world that none of those other fights had anything in it, you know?”

As for all the recent accusations from his UFC 280 opponent Aljamain Sterling that he’s still using PEDs?

“I think it’s just him creating excuses, being scared of the fight,” Dillashaw said. “Knowing that the man standing across from him’s got a great chance of knocking his ass out. And it’s just an excuse to why he lost, he didn’t lose to a clean athlete. But I can guarantee you that I am.”

What do you think, PENN Nation? Should fans be more forgiving of T.J. Dillashaw considering he’s done his time? Or do you think he’s still up to some funny business? Let us know in the comments!