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Cory Sandhagen clear about UFC title shot on line vs. Frankie Edgar: We ‘are next, whoever wins’

LAS VEGAS – UFC brass often like to hold their cards close to their chest when it comes to future matchmaking plans, but Cory Sandhagen believes his bout with Frankie Edgar is a clear No. 1 contender fight.

With current champ Petr Yan set to face Aljamain Sterling on March 6, a handful of contenders are vying to be next in line for the winner. But with former champ Cody Garbrandt eyeing a move down to flyweight and fellow former titleholder T.J. Dillashaw returning from a U.S. Anti-Doping Agency suspension, Sandhagen believes his UFC Fight Night 184 contest with Edgar will grant the winner a title shot.

“The only names that are even in the conversation are Garbrandt, but he said he was going down to ’25, and you have Dillashaw, and Dillahsaw is coming back from a really serious suspension that he just got off of,” Sandhagen told MMA Junkie. “Neither one of those guys are kind of in the conversation right now because of their situations, so that leaves me and Frankie’s fight as a huge fight.”

Sandhagen (13-2 MMA, 6-1 UFC) and Edgar (24-8-1 MMA, 18-8-1 UFC) meet in the co-main event of Saturday’s card, which streams live on ESPN+ from the UFC Apex. It’s a big moment for the fast-rising Sandhagen, who currently sits at No. 3 in the latest USA TODAY Sports/MMA Junkie bantamweight rankings, with Edgar checking in just behind at No. 4.

While an even-keeled personality by nature, even Sandhagen admits it was a little weird to be paired up with a legend like Edgar, who started competing in the UFC some eight years before “The Sandman” even made his professional debut.

“It does some different stuff to your brain,” Sandhagen admitted. “I think there was one moment where I was like, ‘Oh, man, this is really a big deal.’ But it definitely does something to your mind where you take it in a different way, where it’s like, ‘Oh, man, this guy, I’m not going to throw anything at this guy that he hasn’t seen,’ so that does kind of cross your mind.

“But I mean, the reason me and Frankie are fighting each other is because we’re in the same pond right now, and I think that we’re definitely both deserving to be where we are. I mean, of course he is, but I’m talking more specifically about me. It’s definitely different.”

But Sandhagen, 11 years his opponent’s junior, insists there’s no chance he’ll be starstruck on the night. After all, he said he certainly respects Edgar’s accomplishments as a fighter, but “The Answer” didn’t necessarily serve as a role model for Sandhagen as he made his way to the UFC.

“I mean, I was a fan of him, but me and and him definitely don’t have similar styles of fighting,” Sandhagen said. “I suppose we both have good footwork, but I was really a fan of the people that I could learn from, and not that there’s nothing to be learned from Frankie, but he wasn’t one of those guys that I was watching and was like, ‘Oh, man, what he’s doing is really awesome.’

“Frankie is who he is because he makes really good decisions. He keeps it really fundamental, and he does an awesome job at that. I think that that’s what’s gotten him to where he is, but no, I looked up to more of the flashier types of fighters.”

Sandhagen is a sizable favorite according to the oddsmakers, sitting around a -400, implying an 80 percent chance of victory. But the Elevation Fight Team product insists he’s not looking past the challenge.

“He has great pace, and he has good durability,” Sandhagen said. “I mean, his skills are definitely really great, too. He might not be the most dangerous guy striking or as a submission artist or whatever, but that doesn’t make him not good. He’s not on a lot of highlight reels, which is kind of the day and age that we live in, but as far as staying really solid and his striking and his wrestling, although it might not be the most highlight-reel worthy thing, he’s still definitely very dangerous in the sense that he’ll do that to you, and you’ll lose, which at the end of the day is the most important thing, and he’s definitely a huge threat to that.”

Were it not for a shockingly quick submission loss to Sterling this past June, Sandhagen would be the one challenging for the UFC bantamweight title next month. However, he’s since rebounded from that a result with a fantastic TKO finish of Marlon Moraes and could be knocking on the door a title shot once again. On Saturday, Sandhagen believes he can stamp his ticket.

“Frankie is a future Hall of Famer,” Sandhagen said. “I really know that I can be one of the best in this division and be a champ for a really long time, and I really want to get that going. I want those years of being champ, and so it’s got to be that me and Frankie are next, whoever wins.”

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