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Cory Sandhagen inspired by Dominick Cruz’s continued success, eyeing him next: ‘I’ve always wanted to fight him’

Cory Sandhagen isn’t the type of fighter who watches a ton of MMA on his off-time, but he did happen to catch Dominick Cruz’s come-from-behind win over Pedro Munhoz at UFC 269. And he couldn’t help but come away impressed by the legend’s ability to continue being someone who matters in the UFC bantamweight division despite being so deep into his Hall of Fame career.

“He did awesome, man,” Sandhagen said of Cruz on Wednesday’s episode of The MMA Hour. “I really appreciate guys like that, like the Dominick Cruzs and the Jose Aldos. That’s why I think it would be so cool for me to fight them one day, is just because they kind of all are on the tail-end of their careers, and I really respect the guys that fight all the way up until they can’t anymore.

“To me, that’s just a really admirable thing. And I think that Cruz doing so well against Munhoz just goes to show that the guy has a lot of passion and the guy really loves the sport. And same with Aldo. I have a ton of respect for the guys that stick around for a really long time, because this sport isn’t easy, man, and the guys that they’ve been fighting for years and years and years have not been easy guys. So for them to continue to put themselves in that fire is very, very admirable. So I was happy for Cruz, man.”

Cruz battled back from adversity against Munhoz at UFC 269, rebounding from an early knockdown to win the final two rounds and polish off a perfect 2-0 campaign in 2021. It’s an impressive feat for the former WEC and UFC bantamweight champion, who at age 36, still very much remains a factor in the bantamweight ranks. Cruz is currently sitting at No. 14 at 135 pounds on MMA Fighting’s Global Rankings, and will likely be considerably higher when the rankings update next at the beginning of January 2022.

Cruz’s win over Munhoz also extended a record that illustrates how remarkable his sustained success has been over his 17-year career — Cruz is an undefeated 17-0 in bouts where neither a WEC nor UFC title is on the line since beginning his MMA run in 2005. What makes that record even more impressive is the consistently high level of competition Cruz has faced throughout his time in the sport.

“I think it’s inspiring,” Sandhagen said. “I know my UFC career hasn’t been the easiest either, and so I really respect that those guys have been fighting some of the top guys in the world for a really long time. I feel like I got thrown into that mix pretty quickly in my UFC career, and I hope that I get to fight the best guys in the world for the rest of my career. I wouldn’t rather have it any other way. So those guys, I definitely respect big time.”

In the aftermath of his win over Munhoz, Cruz told the media that he is eyeing a big fight that could get him closer to another shot at the UFC bantamweight title.

Sandhagen, MMA Fighting’s No. 4 ranked bantamweight, is more than happy to volunteer his services after recently losing his shot at the interim belt against Petr Yan at UFC 267.

“I’ve always wanted to fight Cruz, man,” Sandhagen said. “I’ve always wanted to fight him. If you’re going to press me real hard, man, he’s probably at the top of my list, especially because [Rob] Font wasn’t even really in that fight with Aldo, from my understanding, even though I didn’t watch a ton of it — a lot of the judges had it 50-45, so if that was maybe more of a competitive fight, then Font would definitely interest me.

“Not to take anything away from Font, but Cruz did really well and Cruz is a legend, and he’s someone that I’ve watched and admired for a really long time, so that would be cool.”