The MMA world won’t see TJ Dillashaw in the Octagon until at least January 2020, but the former UFC bantamweight champion has started to explain how he ended up in his current situation, suspended and without a belt.
Speaking with Chael Sonnen on his “You’re Welcome” podcast, Dillashaw opened up about getting caught cheating following his shockingly quick loss against Henry Cejudo for the UFC flyweight belt in January.
"I'm not mad I did it, because I don't think I could have taken the fight," Dillashaw said in the first interview since news came out about his failed drug test. "I'm obviously gonna own up that I cheated, I got caught. It's a rough one, man. It's hard not to hate yourself a little bit."
Dillashaw received a two-year suspension from the USADA after testing positive for recombinant human erythropoietin, also known as EPO. Dillashaw told Sonnen that he used the synthetic form of EPO, an anemia medication called ProCrit, six weeks before his fight with Cejudo.
Why did TJ Dillashaw take a banned substance?
EPO is a banned substance with the World Anti-Doping Agency, something Dillashaw openly admitted to being aware of as he took ProCrit to try and make weight for the flyweight match. The drug is already well-known in the sports world for being the one Lance Armstrong admitted to using years ago.
Dillashaw, the UFC bantamweight champ when he entered the fight, was attempting to become just the fourth person in UFC history to hold two belts in two divisions at the same time. However, the change in weight class meant fighting at 125 pounds, rather than Dillashaw’s usual 135.
While training for the fight, Dillashaw reportedly saw his hematocrit — essentially the number of red blood cells in his blood — drop. He claims he took only enough ProCrit to get his hematocrit back to normal levels.
"The real s---ty part -- I'm not creating any excuse, I f---ed up, I did it -- is the fact I never took my body to anything that was un-normal," Dillashaw said. "... It wasn't like I was above unnatural levels."
Of course, being able to go through a strenuous training camp while not worrying about your hematocrit could still have been an unfair advantage for Dillashaw over Cejudo, not that it helped him much in what turned out to be a 32-second TKO loss.
What’s next for TJ Dillashaw?
Suddenly free for the next two years, Dillashaw has already undergone one shoulder surgery and is scheduled to undergo another in a few weeks.
Dillashaw also said he plans to spend more time with his wife and infant son and work on two companies, per ESPN. One focuses on cold press juice, while the other sells spices. Above all, though, Dillashaw plans to return to the Octagon and attempt to regain his belt once he’s eligible.
That could be tough, however, considering who currently holds the bantamweight title.
More from Yahoo Sports: