If Cory Sandhagen has to fight one more time, he believes TJ Dillashaw is the only suitable opponent for him.
Sandhagen returned to the win column last month following an impressive second-round TKO victory over Marlon Moraes in their bantamweight headliner. As a result, he put himself back in title contention with current champion Petr Yan now set to defend his bantamweight crown against Aljamain Sterling at UFC 256 on December 12.
Ideally, Sandhagen would fight the winner of that contest especially considering he is the No. 2 bantamweight behind Sterling and is 6-1 in the UFC.
However, “The Sandman” believes he is still one win away from truly being the No. 1 contender and despite calling for TJ Dillashaw or Frankie Edgar in his post-fight interview, he now believes only Dillashaw makes sense for him.
“I think that I’m maybe one fight away from being that No. 1 guy,” Sandhagen told MMA Fighting. “When you kind of look at the division, [Cody] Garbrandt is hurt and he’s at 125 [pounds] now so that’s not really a possibility. Then you have Frankie [Edgar], who came off of a win against [Pedro] Munhoz, which isn’t like as good a competitor as Marlon. Then you have T.J. [Dillashaw] that’s coming back in January, who is known as one of the best bantamweights in history.
“I definitely think my No. 1 contender fight should be against T.J. just because it makes the most sense. I think that I have a pretty strong case now, and when T.J. comes back, he’s going to have a pretty strong case. I’d love to fight him and then right after that when the winner of Yan and Sterling are ready to go, fight one of those guys in the spring or sometime.”
Sandhagen Has No Issue With Dillashaw’s PED Suspension
Dillashaw will be eligible to return to action in January which is when his two-year suspension from the United States Anti-Doping Agency ends. The former champion notably tested positive for EPO following his flyweight title defeat to Henry Cejudo in 2019.
But despite all that, Sandhagen — who is sure he has fought against fighters on steroids in the past — has no problem facing him as the reward outweighs the risks.
“I don’t have any feelings about him being on steroids or whatever. He made that decision himself,” Sandhagen said. “Do I think it’s ethically wrong? Of course, I think it’s ethically wrong but that was his decision that he made. He paid his consequence and he’s going to have to live with that. I don’t really care what other people do.
“This guy can be whatever juice he wants to be on or he can be training with the best guys in the world, it doesn’t matter to me. I’m still going to have confidence in myself and that’s where I always put myself before a fight.”
As for fighting Dillashaw in January, the timeline works out for Sandhagen.
“That sounds good to me,” Sandhagen added. “January, February sounds good to me.”
Perhaps it can even feature on the UFC 257 card on January 23 which is set to be headlined by a lightweight bout between Conor McGregor and Dustin Poirier.