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Cory Sandhagen argues Henry Cejudo shouldn’t be able to come back, lose, and then get choice of fights

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MMA: MAR 25 UFC on ESPN 43 Photo by Louis Grasse/PxImages/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Henry Cejudo receiving an immediate title shot after a three-year layoff didn’t seem to ruffle too many feathers. After all, he retired as champion without ever losing the title.

Despite his best efforts, Cejudo ultimately came up short in his bid to reclaim the bantamweight title, losing a split decision to Aljamain Sterling in the UFC 288 main event. In the immediate aftermath of that fight, he didn’t sound certain on his future, but that all changed a few days after the event when he called out Sterling’s friend and teammate, Merab Dvalisvhili, who is currently on a nine-fight winning streak in the division.

Meanwhile, Cory Sandhagen has been calling for that same fight against Dvalishvili in the wake of his win over Marlon “Chito” Vera. With both fighters coming off wins, Sandhagen believes he’s better suited to land the fight with Dvalishvili, especially considering Cejudo already had his wish granted when he jumped right back into title contention after ending his retirement. Sandhagen bristles at the idea of Cejudo getting to call his shot again.

“I still don’t love the idea of Henry coming back, losing, and then being able to call whatever fight he wants to call out for,” Sandhagen said on The Fighter vs. The Writer. “I think it should be me and Merab.

“I think that’s the fight that makes the most sense on paper. But I talked to the UFC a little bit, and they said that they’re going to give me some options. They had to kind of see what happened [at UFC 288], and how all that played out first. I’m just waiting for the UFC to get back to me.”

Sandhagen has occupied a spot near the top of the bantamweight rankings for several years, with his only losses coming against a trio of ex-UFC champions in Sterling, T.J. Dillashaw, and Petr Yan. He’s currently on a two-fight winning streak highlighted by a victory over Vera and a TKO stoppage of Song Yadong.

With Sterling now set to clash with Sean O’Malley at UFC 292, Sandhagen sees Dvalishvili as a natural fit for his next opponent, with the winner likely moving into position to challenge the bantamweight champion.

Sandhagen said he doesn’t care as much about when his next fight happens, but rather who it happens against.

“I don’t know what Merab’s timeline is for stuff, if he potentially has an injury or whatever’s going on,” Sandhagen said. “I don’t really know fully what’s going on, but I’m supposed to get some options pretty soon, and then I’ll know. But on paper, what makes more sense than me and Merab for a No. 1 contender [fight]?

“Of course I want to fight again this year. I just want to hear the UFC’s options, to be honest. As long as I have my 10 or 12 weeks to get ready for a fight, I’m pretty cool with that. As long as I have that amount of time to get ready for something, and from the point where they tell me I’m fighting to that point, that’s really all I care about. I don’t have necessarily a huge timeline when I want to fight, when I don’t want to [fight]. I’m going to make a smart decision for my career, even though I have a wedding planned for September.”

While Dvalishvili is his top option, Sandhagen isn’t opposed to a future showdown with Cejudo. But his only real concern is moving closer to a title shot.

“It depends whether or not Henry sticks around, but I would love to put a feather in my cap of someone of that caliber,” Sandhagen said. “That’s why I’m here, to fight those best guys. Henry has never been on my radar too much, because I always thought he was in and out. But if he’s saying he’s going to stick around, I could throw him on the radar too, and we could see what happens with that.”

Because he’s so close to a life-changing opportunity, Sandhagen is willing to wait for an opponent like Dvalishvili if that’s the matchup to get him a title shot.

As much as Sandhagen always wants to accept fights when the matchmakers come calling, he understands how much is riding on his next performance. Whether that means Dvailishvili, Cejudo, or somebody else, Sandhagen will entertain all offers — assuming there’s a guaranteed title shot attached to the contract.

“As long as it’s a No. 1 contender fight,” Sandhagen said, “I’ll say yes to it.”

Listen to new episodes of The Fighter vs. The Writer every Tuesday with audio only versions of the podcast available on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, iHeartRadio and Stitcher

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