Cory Sandhagen is looking to use his upcoming fight against TJ Dillashaw as the launching pad for a bantamweight title fight, while Dillashaw needs a dominant performance to reassert himself after a two-year suspension. The next challenger for the bantamweight should be decided on Saturday, as Sandhagen faces Dillashaw in the main event of UFC on ESPN.
Sandhagen (14-2) ranks second at UFC bantamweight after winning his last two fights. A win against Dillashaw would lead to a title shot against the winner of the next UFC 267 title fight in October, pitting Aljamain Sterling against Petr Yan.
“I would consider myself a failure if I didn’t retire as the world champion,” says Sandhagen. “I don’t plan on losing any more fights for the rest of my career. That means winning the belt and staying the champion until it’s my time to leave. “
Before he can be crowned champion, Sandhagen faces a multitude of challenges from Dillashaw (16-4), who is an elite fighter and also possesses an incredible amount of power in his arsenal. Dillashaw will likely need this win, and a win against Rob Font, to return to competing for a title he never lost.
This is Dillashaw’s first fight after a two-year suspension after testing positive for recombinant human erythropoietin, a drug commonly used to treat chronic kidney disease, cancer, or anemia, which can be used as a performance enhancer to increase fitness. oxygen consumption capacity of a person. In 2019, Dillashaw dropped weight to make his flyweight debut. He exhausted his body and lost by TKO to Henry Cejudo, and his failed drug test led to suspension, forcing him to vacate his bantamweight title. The stakes are high for Dillashaw, who needs to prove that he is still an elite fighter.
Dillashaw was always explosive in the cage. After missing two years of UFC competition, a serious question has arisen as to whether Dillashaw still owns his unique brand of power.
“TJ definitely has his hands full,” says Sandhagen. “Not just with me, but with the entire division. Look at the top 10 of the division. He looks very different from the two-year-old split when he left. TJ definitely has his hands full on Saturday night. I have shown that I am world class and that I can be a world champion. That’s what I see this fight is, who will be the next to fight for the championship. “
Sandhagen’s last loss was against Sterling in June 2020, ending his seven-game winning streak.
“I didn’t go out at the level of intensity that I needed,” says Sandhagen. “Fights happen very fast, and the best in the world can get you out very quickly if you are not 100% ready and prepared to participate in such an intense moment. That’s where I made my mistake with Sterling, and I fixed it. I practice a lot to get intense and focused before training, and it has paid off in my last two fights. Now I have the intensity I need to compete against some of the best fighters on the planet. “
Thanks to focus and experience, Sandhagen will enter this fight with supreme confidence.
“I was seeing Giannis [Antetokounmpo’s] interview after the NBA Finals, ”says Sandhagen. “He talked about how he decided he was going to be the best player in the NBA, that he was going to work harder until he made it. I really loved that. It felt like my loss to Sterling, when I made the decision to do whatever it takes to be the best in this sport.
“I haven’t peaked yet. Every month, I’m becoming a better competitor, and that started when I lost that fight to Sterling. I have had four consecutive camps on how to reach my physical maximum, and I can do it in a much more efficient way. “
The fight must be a dynamic MMA fight, one that can go in many different directions and must be high-paced. The immediate future is at stake for Sandhagen and Dillashaw, and as both have title aspirations, neither can afford a poor performance on Saturday.
“Expect some intensity,” says Sandhagen. “TJ is a really aggressive guy. I’m a murderer and it will all end when TJ makes his biggest mistake. “
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• Sandhagen vs. Dillashaw and DFS Preview
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.