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Cory Sandhagen’s ideal fight? Dominick Cruz at UFC 248

Cory Sandhagen has moved on to bigger and better things.

His scheduled opponent, Frankie Edgar, opted to step in on short notice against Chan Sung Jung at UFC on ESPN+ 23, one month before Edgar was supposed to meet Sandhagen at UFC Raleigh on Jan. 25.

Sandhagen (12-1 MMA, 5-0 UFC) doubted Edgar would come out his new fight unscathed, which came to pass when he suffered a first-round TKO loss to Jung, which put him on medical suspension.

Now Sandhagen is left scrambling for a new fight, and it won’t be on Jan. 25. If it was up to him, Sandhagen would meet another former champion, former 135-pound king Dominick Cruz.

“Ideally, me and Cruz fight in first week of March,” Sandhagen told MMA Junkie. “Ideally I fight on that date against Dominick Cruz, if that doesn’t happen then I’m likely going to have to wait until later March or April when this second round of bantamweight fights comes up and I can snag one of those top five guys.”

Cruz (22-2 MMA, 5-1 UFC) hasn’t competed since losing his title to Cody Garbrandt almost three years ago at UFC 207, as a string of injuries have kept him on the sidelines. Sandhagen says he heard Cruz is looking to return in the first quarter of 2020, but won’t hold his breath waiting.

With that in mind, Sandhagen sees benefits in fighting any of the top-ranked 135-pounders.

“I’m not going to try to chase a fight with Cruz too much because I think that the division is in a spot right now – all of the fights I feel like are going to do similar things for me so for example, if I fight Moraes, or if I fight Yan or if I fight Cruz, or Sterling or Aldo, or whoever else there is to fight in that top five area, fighting either of those guys isn’t a ticket to a title shot. There’s still no clear contender, I just don’t want to be left in the dust.”

After the Edgar fight fell through, Sandhagen was contemplating staying on the UFC Raleigh card, which is headlined by teammate Curtis Blaydes, but wasn’t presented with any offers.

“They didn’t give me any options for that same date,” Sandhagen said. “They gave me the option to fight Pedro Munhoz in February but I mean that feels a little bit like a step back especially because I don’t think it would be on any card where I was co-headlining the card so once they told me it wasn’t Jan. 25, I kind of made the decision of like, I’ll wait until a really big name, or someone that’s going to do a lot for me.”

“Not that Pedro won’t, Pedro’s a great fighter but that’s the nature of the beast. I could just wait probably another month or two months in March or April and fight someone that has a lot of noise buzzing around them like a (Marlon) Moraes or a (Petr) Yan or Cruz or even (Jose) Aldo now if he doesn’t go fight Cejudo – or Aljamain (Sterling), I don’t know when he’s coming back but those are kind of like, my top choices.”

While he hopes that the UFC makes up for what happened with his scrapped fight with Edgar, Sandhagen thinks the withdrawal of Edgar may be a blessing in disguise after all.

“I think I’ll be ok, maybe even worked out in a better situation for me where instead of fighting Frankie, maybe I’m going to fight one of these top five guys which is still awesome for me as far as getting my name out there and stuff because it seems like that’s kind of where I’m lacking right now. I just need people to – I need like the fanbase and I need people following me so that when it is time to fight for a belt, people will tune in.”

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