Cory Sandhagen Explains Why He Wants Merab Dvalishvili Over ‘More Popular Shiny Toy’ Sean O’Malley

Sandhagen also details his mindset on the road to a UFC title.

Cory Sean
(via Food Truck Diaries, @sugasean - Instagram)

Cory Sandhagen switched gears following his last win.

The #3 bantamweight contender was planning on calling out Sean O’Malley after beating Chito Vera at UFC San Antonio, but Sandhagen ultimately decided on Merab Dvalishvili instead — in a rather cheesy manner.

‘Long Vision Stuff’

Don’t get it twisted though, Sandhagen still sees himself fighting O’Malley in the future. However, Sandhagen believes the wrestling-heavy ‘Machine’ is a necessary test for this stage of his career, that being on the cusp of a UFC title shot.

“One thing that I’ve been able to do fairly well in my career is like, think a couple years ahead. I don’t want to just attack the more popular shiny toy and have that be the fight,” Sandhagen said on Food Truck Diaries. “Me and Sean will fight one day. That’s definitely [happening] probably in the next year or two. We will definitely fight so that fight will happen when it happens, but for me, I wanna fight these really tough wrestler guys before I get the belt.

“I don’t want to have the belt and then not have any confidence in fighting that type of person. That’s just like long vision stuff. When you’re building up a fighter, because I do some coaching now, like give them certain challenges at certain times. Like you don’t just overwhelm them right off the bat with giving them like a super tough matchup that’s not gonna be favorable for them. You give them fights at the right time so that they can really like [improve with] different challenges.”

Sandhagen Wants To Challenge Himself Before The Belt

Sandhagen shares that his perspective has changed when it comes to the UFC title. For ‘The Sandman’ it’s not about getting the title as quick as you can, it’s about retaining it for as long as possible. And Sandhagen claims he knows just how to do it.

“It’s another one of those things that’s just so played out to me. It’s like everyone is super and me included before, everyone is super hyper-focused on like, how do I get the belt and what’s the easiest route to the belt? Because you make maybe a hundred grand, a couple hundred grand more if you’re the title holder. Maybe more for some of those guys. But for me, it’s like, okay, so I want to win the belt. What do I need to do before that happens so that when I do get the belt, I can hold onto that thing for a really long time? And that’s fighting a super good wrestler. There’s that piece of it. There’s like me wanting to challenge myself before I even get to the belt.

“I would say the reason that I want to fight Merab instead of like an O’Malley too is I don’t want to be the champ if I’m not the actual best in the world,” Sandhagen explained. “I don’t really think that a lot of people really think like that either. Maybe I’m giving myself a little bit too much credit, but I do not want the belt if I am not the best in the world.”

Sandhagen On Vera: ‘I Wanted Him On His Best Night’

Sandhagen continued talking about his new mindset, citing he wanted his last opponent Chito Vera on his ‘best night’, not his worst.

“I go into fights like that too, it’s like, okay, we’ll see who’s better if I’m not better than this guy, I do not want to win. I don’t want like, some bullsh*t way of me winning. To hear Chito say that he was like on his worst day or like he was having an off night — that irks me a little bit inside because I’m like, man, I wanted him on his best night like that’s who I wanted. A lot of people say that, but I don’t really think that they mean it.

“Before when I used to say that, I didn’t really mean it. That was like years and years ago, of course. But I’ve gotten really comfortable with being like, if that person deserves to win more than me because they did more correct things throughout their life, I can live with that and that’s what I want. It’s the same thing with the title man. I don’t want to be a world champion if I’m not the actual best in the world.”

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