Early this month, Cory Sandhagen claimed to have agreed to fight former UFC bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz. Almost a couple of weeks later, Sandhagen declared the match up off table, stating it was Cruz who backed out.
Cruz remained quiet from his end all this time, until he cleared the air in a recent interview with MMA Fighting.
“Who said that I took it? What I’ve heard is that he’s saying that he took the fight and I didn’t,” he said. “My question is, who did he talk to that said that I got offered the fight and I said no? What I know is, there’s only one common denominator between myself and any of the other fighters that might get matched up, Sean Shelby. He’s the matchmaker. Don’t we all know that in the whole world?
“So Sean Shelby is the matchmaker, me and Cory Sandhagen don’t talk, who is Cory Sandhagen getting his information from? He’s getting it from the matchmaker. Where else would he get it? He’s the only guy talking to both of us, isn’t he?
“What Shelby does is he creates fights between the fighters before the fight happens so that he can get himself out of the way,” Cruz continued. “That’s my experience. It’s not a fact. And what I’m getting from this is Shelby’s telling Sandhagen about me, then Cory Sandhagen puts it out there and then expects me to bite.”
All along, Cruz wanted a matchup that would spearhead him to a title shot. UFC matchmakers told him it would be against someone like Petr Yan. He then expressed his intent to take that fight instead, only to be rejected.
“Sean Shelby told me, in all reality: I said, ‘how do I come back and get a title shot the fastest? He said, ‘you can get a title shot if you fight Petr Yan,’” Cruz explained. “I said I want that fight. He said, ‘well, technically, that’s a harder fight so you’ll get a title shot right after it, but we don’t want to give you a title shot right after so we would give you Sandhagen before you get Yan.’
“I was thinking, I want a title shot. I don’t want to just fight somebody, I want to fight towards the title. So I would fight anybody, let me get the title shot after that fight.
“[Shelby said] ‘Petr Yan’s the guy.’ I said yes, I’ll fight Petr Yan. He said I can’t fight Petr Yan because he’s fighting Marlon Moraes. Well then I’ll fight Moraes, or Petr Yan, because those are direct fights straight to the title. After I beat either of those guys, I get a title shot. That’s what I’m in this for, not to fight 13 times beforehand.
“Sean Shelby’s saying all of this stuff to different fighters and not telling me about it,” Cruz continued. “You offered me Petr Yan to get to the title, and then you switched it up. That’s the truth.”
Cruz went on to reiterate that he never rejected the supposed Sandhagen fight, or any fight for that matter.
“I never said no to Sandhagen. I never would. I don’t say no to fights,” he said. “What I said no to was not fighting Petr Yan. I want to fight Petr Yan, I want to fight Marlon Moraes, I want to fight for the title after I fight one of those guys. If you need me to get one fight back before I fight for the title, give me that guy you need me to fight to get to that title.”
Cruz has been out of action for more than three years now. He last fought at UFC 207 in December 2016 when he dropped the 135-pound title to Cody Garbrandt. He intends to make a return sometime within the year.