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Cory Sandhagen, Frankie Edgar expect winner at UFC Vegas 18 to earn next shot at bantamweight title

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As bantamweight champion Petr Yan prepares to defend his title for the first time against Aljamain Sterling at UFC 259 in March, a new No. 1 contender in the division could be determined on Saturday night.

In the UFC Vegas 18 co-main event, Cory Sandhagen battles Frankie Edgar with both fighters currently ranked in the top five at 135 pounds and each believes a win should earn them a shot at bantamweight gold.

“I’m considering it a No. 1 contender’s fight,” Edgar told MMA Fighting ahead of Saturday night’s event. “Any time you can string together a couple of wins over some top competition, doing what I did in my career, that’s always going to put me at the doorstep.

“I think Cory, he’s kind of put a nice resume up of himself in this bantamweight division so I imagine whoever gets the win will be fighting for the title next after Aljo.”

In his debut in the division, Edgar engaged in a Fight of the Night with Pedro Munhoz to officially introduce himself to the weight class. Meanwhile, Sandhagen is coming off a highlight reel finish with a spinning heel kick knockout against former title contender Marlon Moraes in his most recent fight.

Much like Edgar, Sandhagen believes the body of work he’s put together deserves consideration as the next contender in line for a title shot after Yan and Sterling settle their business at UFC 259.

Of course the only potential ‘X’ factor that could create a problem for Sandhagen and Edgar is the return of former champion T.J. Dillashaw, who just recently competed a two-year suspension for violating the UFC’s anti-doping policy when he tested positive for recombinant human erythropoietin — better known as EPO.

Dillashaw has now been cleared to return to action and he’s already called for an immediate title shot but Sandhagen says former champion or not, nobody should return from a doping suspension and jump the line over more worthy contenders.

“The winner of me and Frankie should be next for the title,” Sanhagen said when speaking to MMA Fighting. “That’s why I called out T.J. [Dillashaw] publicly after my last fight because if he was going to come back, I didn’t want him to this ‘oh I’m famous, I’m going to fight for the title next.’ I wanted to call him out publicly so that if he didn’t take this fight with me around now, which would have lined up perfectly for this Feb. 6 card, he would look some type of way.

“Obviously, we’re not fighting. I don’t know where his head’s at. I don’t know if he thinks he’s going to get a free ride because who he is, which is a smart move but also kind of a lame move. I think if you’re looking at who’s been putting in work. I see myself as the future of the division but if you’re looking at who’s getting big wins, it’s me and Frankie. We’re at the top of the list. To have T.J. slide into that spot would be really lame.”

As of now, there’s still been no work on when Dillashaw might actually fight again or a potential opponent for his return to the cage.

Regardless, Sandhagen is keeping his eyes on the prize with confidence that an impressive win will put him on track to compete for the UFC bantamweight title later this year.

“Me and Frankie, it’s the fight that makes good sense for the title next,” Sandhagen said. “Maybe at that big card in July. The winner of this fight against the winner of the fight [between Yan and Sterling.”

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