UFC indicates Cory Sandhagen will fight for 135-pound title with win over Umar Nurmagomedov in Abu Dhabi

UFC indicates Cory Sandhagen will fight for 135-pound title with win over Umar Nurmagomedov in Abu Dhabi

Cory Sandhagen is one of the easiest going guys in all of mixed martial arts.

He doesn’t complain, he doesn’t make demands, and he never turns down a fight. But don’t for a moment think that ‘The Sandman’ doesn’t know his worth. So when the UFC came to him offering a main event matchup with Umar Nurmagomedov in Abu Dhabi on August 3, Sandhagen was more than willing to take the bout as long as the juice was worth the squeeze.

Cory Sandhagen vs. Umar Nurmagomedov

“I don’t try to complain too much,” Sandhagen told MMA Junkie. “I try not to have too many opinions. I just ask for more money if they want me to do things that I feel like are a little bit unreasonable, not that it was the most unreasonable ask. It’s still going to be a main event in a really cool city.

“I get to go to the Middle East again, which is fun for me. I’ll actually be able to explore a little bit before and after and go early to do the whole shifting my time zone thing, which I didn’t do the last couple times. I’m still really excited about it. The last couple times, Abu Dhabi fans were really awesome and really fair. I didn’t feel like I was in enemy territory or anything the last couple times. So yeah, I’m still excited about it.”

Aside from banking some extra cash for his trip to the Middle East, Cory Sandhagen will be fighting for his first crack at the undisputed bantamweight world title.

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Cory Sandhagen

Current 135-pound king ‘Sugar’ Sean O’Malley is gearing up for a clash with the divison’s top-ranked-contender Merab Dvalishvili later this year, the winner likely to take on either Sandhagen or Nurmagomedov.

“Obviously, the first time that I went to dinner with the UFC, they offered me Umar, and I was like, ‘That’s a little bit down in the rankings.’ They were like, ‘Well, it’ll be a No. 1 contender fight.’ I was like, ‘OK, absolutely.’ Then, obviously that one got scrapped [in August 2023 when Nurmagomedov withdrew].

“This go-around, they relayed to me I don’t want to say the exact quote but, ‘I don’t know how you won’t be next after Merab [Dvalishvili], if you win this fight.’ Also, who else is there that can really do that? I also think that me and Sean is a really huge fight.”

Cory Sandhagen

Cory Sandhagen will be rooting for sean o’Malley

After capturing the bantamweight title with a stunning second-round knockout of Aljamain Sterling in August, Sean O’Malley successfully defended the belt against Marlon ‘Chito’ Vera in the UFC 299 headliner in March. Initially, O’Malley lobbied for a champion vs. champion clash with Ilia Topuria before Dana White quickly shut down those talks.

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Dvalishvili will go into his first title opportunity on a 10-fight win streak, his most recent win coming against former two-division champion Henry Cejudo. As it stands, ‘The Machine’ is favored to come out on top in the yet-to-be-announced bout, sitting as a -125 (55.56% implied chance) favorite on multiple sportsbooks.

Sandhagen will gladly take on either man, but he believes a fight with Sean O’Malley would be a far more marketable matchup.

“I’ll be rooting for [Sean] O’Malley in the next one, just because the bigger the fight, the bigger the challenge, the better,” Sandhagen said. “I’ll be rooting for O’Malley and that’s one the fans want to see really, really bad. I really want to give the fans what they want. So yeah, I hope that’s the case. … I think that they both have really, really tough tasks ahead of them in very different ways. Merab definitely needs to be able to close that space better than he has shown to do in the past. Then, O’Malley defended a few of Sterling’s pretty good shots. O’Malley can definitely wrestle, too. But wrestling that body type is kind of difficult.

“It’s a little bit weird but that’s such a big gap that Merab is going to have to cover. It’s going to be really tough on him. It might take him a while and obviously Sean is in really good shape and can move his feet. We saw (that) from the Chito fight, too. I think Merab has his hands more full than O’Malley does, but Merab definitely has a ton of heart. He’s been chomping at the bit for this world title for a really, really long time, so it’s hard to not count that in either.”