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Sandhagen treating fight with Yan as official title fight: ‘Everyone sees Yan as the champ’

“I think everyone sees Yan as the champ of the division and the best in the division.”

Cory Sandhagen before his fight with TJ Dillashaw in 2021.
Cory Sandhagen prepares to take on T.J. Dillashaw in their bantamweight bout at UFC on ESPN 27.
Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC

The real bantamweight strap might not be on the line at UFC 267, but Cory Sandhagen is treating his interim title bout against Petr Yan as the real deal.

Aljamain Sterling is the current bantamweight champion but Sandhagen believes ‘everyone sees Yan as the champ’ because ‘No Mercy’ was beating ‘Funk Master’ until the Russian was disqualified for landing an illegal knee in the fourth round.

The controversial result saw Sterling become the first fighter to win a UFC world title via DQ.

“In this circumstance I think it might. I think everyone sees Yan as the champ of the division and the best in the division,” Sandhagen, who is looking to rebound from his split decision loss to T.J. Dillashaw, told Ariel Helwani in a recent interview (h/t BJPenn.com).

“I think it will mean a lot. It never feels real until it actually is real and now that I’m fighting for a UFC belt, even though it’s an interim one, it would feel like I’m the champ. I would definitely know that I have some quieting of the voices about the Sterling loss I’ve had and then the TJ loss that I had, but those will be very exciting rematches in the division.”

Sandhagen stepped in on short notice after Sterling was forced to withdraw from UFC 267 due to injury. The highly anticipated PPV, which features Yan-Sandhagen as the co-main event, takes place on October 30 at the Etihad Arena in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.