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Aljamain Sterling, Cory Sandhagen offer differing views on next bantamweight title shot

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A bantamweight title shot could be on the line for either Cory Sandhagen or T.J. Dillashaw this weekend at UFC Vegas 32. 

Are there title implications for the winner of Cory Sandhagen and T.J. Dillashaw this weekend at UFC Vegas 32? Well, that depends on who you ask.

Sandhagen agrees with the general consensus that the fight between him and Dillashaw is indeed a No. 1 contender fight, so whoever wins will likely meet the winner of the championship rematch between Aljamain Sterling and Petr Yan. Sterling and Yan do not have an official date for their rematch yet, but it is expected to be near the end of the year.

Sandhagen hopes the details of that fight are sorted out soon because he is already planning for a title shot against either Sterling or Yan.

“I think it’s definitely gotta be, or at least on my end it is,” said Sandhagen at media day on Wednesday. “So, that’s the next step. I think the timing is pretty good, too. Those guys can have their fight in October or whenever that’s scheduled and then hopefully they don’t want to milk this thing too bad because I’m gonna come for that belt and I’m gonna take it from whoever wins that fight. That’s how I see my next year going.”

Not everyone is in agreement with Sandhagen, though. Perhaps the most vocal in his disagreement is Sterling, who believes that a win over Dillashaw may not be enough to solidify Sandhagen as the new No. 1 contender. Speaking on his Weekly Scraps podcast on Monday, Sterling addressed what a win on Saturday night would do for either of his future opponents and said that Dillashaw may actually have a better claim to fight for the title than Sandhagen.

“I’m very excited to see what this one brings,” said Sterling. “I’m excited to see what T.J. Dillashaw shows up because, you beat T.J. Dillashaw, does that give you a title shot? I don’t know, but if T.J. beats him, does that give T.J. a title shot? It should absolutely give T.J. a title shot. Absolutely. But in the sense of the other way that I’m looking at it, I don’t know what this win really does for Sandhagen other than getting another marquee name added to his resume.”

As impressive as a three-fight win streak — with two of those coming over former champions should he defeat Dillashaw — would be for Sandhagen, Sterling is still not convinced a win over someone returning after more than two years away from competition does anything for his standing in the division.

Dillashaw accepted a two-year suspension from the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) after he tested positive for erythropoietin, or EPO, following his fight with Henry Cejudo at UFC Brooklyn in 2019. Because this is his first fight back since the completion of his suspension, it is difficult to get a read on how Dillashaw performs now and that is part of the reason why Sterling is so unsure of what happens if Sandhagen wins.

“T.J.’s been suspended, been out of competition for two years,” said Sterling. “He cheated. He’s been cheating for a very long time, ask his teammates. This is something that has been disclosed to me years ago and of course, you don’t want to be a whistleblower and not have any evidence. But the evidence has been his teammates talking about it, his former teammates talking about it, and of course, now being caught, I think it’s pretty safe to say where there’s smoke there’s fire.”

UFC Vegas 32 takes place on Saturday, July 24 and streams live on ESPN+ beginning at 4 p.m. ET.