Cory Sandhagen is not looking for a step-down in competition as he gears up for his UFC return this summer.
‘The Sandman’ is looking to spring back into the winner’s column following back-to-back defeats to T.J. Dillashaw and Petr Yan — but he doesn’t want an easy fight.
Sandhagen has fought a murderer’s row of bantamweights since 2019 and would like to test himself against another former champion in his comeback fight, targeting a possible matchup with Dominick Cruz or Jose Aldo.
“I’m still hoping for Aldo or Cruz,” Sandhagen told MMA Junkie in a recent interview. “I think that would set me up very nicely for maybe like two more wins and then fight for the belt again. … At this point, I haven’t tasted a win since I beat Edgar. I would really like a win. I also know I’m very capable of beating anyone in the division also.”
“Cruz and Aldo honestly are just both seasoned veterans in a sport where experience is extremely important,” he continued. “I would really like to test myself against those two. I have the utmost respect for both of them. Anyone that stays in this sport for as long as those have, I know they most really love it. So I appreciate those type of fighters and that’s not to hate on the other guys who kind of leave more when they’re in their prime. I’m not hating on that path either, but I do just have a special appreciation for those guys who stick around for a really long time.
“I don’t think they’re super past their primes, they’ve just been around for a really long time. I would really like to test myself against someone who’s that seasoned and that experienced.”
Sandhagen has a tremendous amount of respect for both men, but, if he had to choose, the 29-year-old would prefer to fight Cruz.
“I really want to fight Cruz before he retires, Aldo too though,” Sandhagen said. “I get a lot of people saying that me and Cruz are very parallel and our styles this and that, but I love Aldo’s style too. I have been a student of Aldo and Cruz for a very long time. If I did have a preference, I’d go with Cruz because that would just be a right time, right place type of thing.”
Sandhagen is currently #4 in the UFC bantamweight rankings and is considered one of the most dangerous strikers in the division. He holds standout highlight-reel knockout victories over Frankie Edgar and Marlon Moraes, KO’ing both men in devastating fashion.