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What TJ Dillashaw’s drug check failure means for UFC

TJ Dillashaw relinquished his UFC bantamweight title championship Wednesday after the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency and the New York State Athletic Commission informed him of an “adverse analytical finding” in a drug test dating back to his most recent fight, in January in Brooklyn. The NYSAC issued him a one-year suspension and $10,000 fine. The decision leaves many questions for UFC fans, including where Dillashaw goes from here and the future of the bantamweight and flyweight divisions.

Here’s what you need to know based off Wednesday’s announcement.

What did TJ Dillashaw test positive for?

It is unclear at this time specifically what the “adverse analytical finding” was. According to USADA, it stems from an in-competition test conducted Jan. 18. Dillashaw headlined the first UFC card on ESPN+ on Jan. 19, a fight against flyweight champ Henry Cejudo in which he lost by first-round TKO.

What does this mean for Dillashaw’s legacy?

Until we know exactly what he tested positive for, it is not possible to determine the impact on Dillashaw’s legacy. He claimed the UFC belt in May 2014 by defeating longtime champion Renan Barao via fifth-round TKO. He lost it in his next fight against Dominick Cruz but won four straight afterward and retook the title by beating Cody Garbrandt at UFC 227 last year. Dillashaw is in the discussion for the greatest UFC bantamweight ever, but negative incidents like this will hinder that legacy long term.

How does this affect the bantamweight division?

At this very moment, there is no champion, leaving many contenders vying for a chance at the title. The most obvious candidate is Marlon Moraes, a former World Series of Fighting bantamweight champion who joined the UFC in 2017. After a debut loss to Raphael Assuncao, he has responded with four consecutive victories, nearly all of which were highlight reel-worthy. Beyond him, there are multiple options to fight for a title. Aljamain Sterling has won three straight, most recently a unanimous-decision win against Jimmie Rivera in February. Pedro Munhoz, on a three-fight win streak, just knocked out former champion Garbrandt in March. And if former titleholder Cruz is ever healthy, he could be in line for a shot. Then that leads us to our next question …

Will Henry Cejudo still try to fight for a second belt?

The UFC flyweight champion was last seen knocking out Dillashaw, who was challenging Cejudo for his 125-pound title. After the win, Cejudo said he wanted to go up in weight to face Dillashaw for the bantamweight championship. Will he still have the same goal with Dillashaw out? The answer is yes. “I’m the biggest name now. I hold all the cards,” he told ESPN’s Ariel Helwani. “It ain’t the flyweight division or the bantamweight division; it’s the Cejudo-weight division. So I will just wait and see what the UFC has planned for the Cejudo-weight division.”

It’s quite possible Cejudo moving up in weight for a chance at a second belt is the outcome of all of this.

If Cejudo moves up in weight, could this be the end of the UFC’s flyweight division?

The future of the 125-pound division remains unclear, but it’s possible the UFC will shut it down. Cejudo moving up would signify that the division’s top star no longer wants to be part of the smallest weight class in the sport. The UFC was unable to make longtime champion Demetrious Johnson the household name he should have been. If Cejudo moves up and stays at bantamweight, the flyweight division could be in trouble.

How will the UFC handle losing a top star for a full year?

Losing Dillashaw is a big loss. The UFC featured him on the first card of its ESPN deal for a reason. But while he is a star, he’s not a superstar. Right now that status is reserved for only Jon Jones, Conor McGregor, Daniel Cormier and maybe Amanda Nunes. Georges St-Pierre is retired and Ronda Rousey is long gone. Dillashaw is not in that top-tier category. Him being gone for a year is bad, but it could be worse for the UFC.


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