COCONUT CREEK, Fla. — T.J. Dillashaw’s stunning departure from the bantamweight title picture has left a void atop the UFC’s 135-pound division, and top-ranked Pedro Munhoz is ready to fill it.
A winner of seven of his last eight fights, Munhoz scored the biggest victory of his career earlier this month when he knocked out former champion Cody Garbrandt with a first-round assault at UFC 235. The performance earned Munhoz his fourth post-fight bonus over his last eight bouts and rocketed him up to the No. 4 spot in the UFC’s media-generated bantamweight rankings. And now Munhoz has his eyes on one thing only: a shot at the vacant bantamweight title against fellow top contender Marlon Moraes.
“Man, I think I deserve a title fight right now,” Munhoz told MMA Fighting at a media day at his American Top Team gym Thursday. “I deserve a title fight. Aljamain Sterling, Henry Cejudo — more than either of them I deserve the title shot right now. I just knocked out the former champ.
“I just knocked out the guy who fought T.J. twice back-to-back for the title. I went there and knocked him out, so it’s my chance now.”
The UFC’s bantamweight title was vacated in a shocking turn of events on Wednesday after Dillashaw revealed that he had tested positive for a banned substance in a USADA drug test in relation to his champion vs. champion UFC Brooklyn fight against flyweight titleholder Cejudo. Dillashaw was handed a one-year suspension by the New York State Athletic Commission for the failed test, was fined $10,000 and could ultimately be subject to a longer ban from USADA. The exact substance Dillashaw tested positive for has yet to be revealed.
Munhoz said he was surprised by Dillashaw’s failed test but was also reminded of accusations of performance-enhancing drug use that Garbrandt hurled at Dillashaw during the lead-ups to the two grudge matches the former teammates shared.
“I was [surprised],” Munhoz said. “I didn’t know if that was a part of the trash talk when he said that, but I guess it wasn’t. I don’t know what he tested positive for, but I was surprised. I didn’t think that would happen, especially because T.J. has been in the game a long time, fought for the title a lot of times and gotten tested a lot of times. And right now, this [latest incident] coming up, we know how serious USADA is and I’m very, very glad that they’re part of the game, because we’re all right now on the same page, and people who are going to try to cheat or do something, they’re going to get caught somehow.”
In the wake of Dillashaw’s revelation, the rest of the bantamweight division has been left to jockey for pole position to determine the next challengers for the vacant belt.
Moraes is the current No. 1 contender and has notched four wins in a row, highlighted by a trio of impressive first-round stoppages over Aljamain Sterling, Jimmie Rivera, and Raphael Assuncao. He appears to be a shoe-in for any upcoming bantamweight title fight.
That leaves three other viable contenders to potentially oppose Moraes: Munhoz, Sterling, or flyweight champion Cejudo. And after cruising to a 7-1 record since 2016 and picking up tough wins over Garbrandt, Bryan Caraway, Rob Font, and Brett Johns, Munhoz believes he is the choice that makes the most sense for the health of the bantamweight division.
“Henry Cejudo is a flyweight,” Munhoz said. “He’s the flyweight champion, good. They want to do that? They already stopped the bantamweight [division once]. That’s going to be the second time. The first time they stopped it when T.J. went down to ’25. Now they want to stop [the division] again because the guy is going up? Let us fight, so we can literally have two guys from the same division fight; not wait for the second time to do these [cross-divisional] matches. Let us fight.
“Then if it makes sense for the UFC, put Cejudo against [the winner of] Marlon and I. And the reason that I’m not putting Aljamain in the mix is because I don’t think it’s going to be an interesting fight. He’s just going to try to out-wrestle or out-grapple us. Fans want to see blood. Fans want to see swings and a dogfight. That’s what I bring every single time. And the reason I don’t do trash talk is because hands speak for themselves.”
Munhoz added that the UFC’s recent trend of staging superfights like the one that led to Dillashaw losing to Cejudo via first-round TKO in January has caused a domino effect that has led to multiple divisions — including bantamweight — being log-jammed at the top. He noted that by throwing Cejudo into yet another cross-divisional fight, the UFC would be only further sending the bantamweight and flyweight classes into disarray.
“Without a doubt [it’s hurting divisions],” Munhoz said. “Without a doubt. And they already did it. To do it again? Let us fight. We, bantamweights. Let’s just find out. It’s going to be Marlon, Aljamain, and I. Cejudo, if he fights [at 135 pounds] again, that’s the second time in a row that they’re going to stop the division for a guy in a different division. So I think they should give us the opportunity right now to find out who’s the bantamweight champion, and then we’ll see if it makes sense to do a fight against Cejudo or not.”
Although he is soft-spoken, Munhoz also took aim at the UFC rankings which currently have Sterling ranked one spot above him. Sterling is 5-3 over his last eight and suffered a grisly 67-second knockout loss to Moraes back in 2017. He also lost to Caraway over the stretch, who Munhoz finished with a vicious first-round TKO in November.
“It doesn’t make any sense why he’s ranked No. 3 and I’m No. 4,” Munhoz said. “It makes no sense. His last fight was a boring fight. In my last fight, I just knocked out the former champ. So now he’s No. 3 and I’m No. 4? I don’t know how the rankings works, I don’t know who is the one who puts the numbers out there. That doesn’t make any sense. Look at my records. Look at my fights. Look at his fights. He’s a great fighter — I’m not saying he’s not a good fighter, he is a good fighter, but I’m a different level.”