Cory Sandhagen is just looking for a fight.
Unbeaten in five UFC appearances thus far, the fast-rising bantamweight had his sights set on breaking into the top-five of the contenders’ rankings in his next outing as his name was tied to potential matchups with Aljamain Sterling and former champion Dominick Cruz.
Neither bout materialized, with Sandhagen admitting that a rumored May 16 meeting with Sterling in San Diego was unlikely to happen (the event ended up being canceled along with all other combat sports events in California due to coronavirus concerns) and Cruz later calling into question how far along he and Sandhagen were to a bout agreement.
Appearing on The A-Side live chat on Friday, Sandhagen was given his own opportunity to provide some clarity on the situation and his account was in line with Cruz’s.
“Me and Aljamain were talking of fighting after we knew that (Marlon) Moraes and (Petr) Yan got booked,” Sandhagen said. “So I was all for Aljamain. Okay, cool, this is a good fight, Aljamain’s ranked No. 2, it makes sense, people are talking about him being a contender, so that made sense. Then, my agent told me that Cruz sent a message to (UFC matchmaker Sean) Shelby saying that he wants to come back for that San Diego card. Whether that’s true or not, that’s what was relayed to me. Shelby said that Cruz wanted to come back and fight in San Diego and that the fight that was most exciting would have been me and Cruz.
“Granted, I think I’ve been pretty outspoken about how much Cruz has been helpful in inspiring me a long, long, time ago to get into martial arts. I’ve been really open about that. I was really excited to do that just because I think it would be so cool—Because 10 years or so ago when I was watching the WEC, I was just watching Cruz and that was one of my favorite fighters. I remember sitting on the couch and being like, ‘Damn, this is what fighting can look like? This is cool. This isn’t what I see in, like, the basketball locker when I’m in high school, you know? This is different. I think that it would be cool for the me that was ten years ago watching Cruz on television to stand across from him in the cage now. That would be maybe a dream come true.”
With the information given to him by Shelby, Sandhagen decided to give the potential booking a nudge by making the talks public on social media.
The hope was that he could respectfully convince Cruz to make the matchup official, but it was a no-go. Within 48 hours, Sandhagen’s manager told him that Cruz would not be fighting in San Diego at all and just like that the bout was gone.
Cruz wanted to make it expressly clear that he never said no to fighting Sandhagen and that it was more about him pursuing a matchup with Yan that the matchmakers had previously mentioned to him. While it’s clear that somewhere along the way the message became muddled for all parties involved, Sandhagen holds no ill will towards Cruz and is just happy that he didn’t end up on the UFC analyst’s bad side.
“I actually appreciate that Cruz didn’t just call me a dumbass and that, like, what Shelby said was true or whatever,” Sandhagen said. “So I actually appreciate how he answered that interview question because he didn’t just roast me like he maybe had the opportunity to. Because anytime you have the opportunity to say a narrative about anything in this sport, guys take it as far as they can.
“Look at Tony (Ferguson) and Khabib (Nurmagomedov). I mean, Tony’s feeding this narrative that Khabib ran away and this and that and it’s like, ‘Man, that’s not true, bro.’ Khabib’s not scared to fight you. I know that’s the narrative you’re feeding people and a couple of people will bite that are your big fans, but it’s a silly narrative. I don’t know why people do that. It seems silly to me. Why do you want to throw your peer under the bus like that? So I appreciate Cruz not calling me an asshole for assuming that everything that I was being told was true.”