Cory Sandhagen out to prove he’s ‘king of the jungle’ at UFC on ESPN 27, build name vs. T.J. Dillashaw

LAS VEGAS – When Cory Sandhagen found out his scheduled May matchup against T.J. Dillashaw was canceled, he wasn’t interested in a booking against anyone else.

Days out from the rebooked pairing, which takes place Saturday at UFC on ESPN 27, Sandhagen (14-2 MMA, 7-1 UFC) explained how his decision to preserve the Dillashaw (16-4 MMA, 12-4 UFC) matchup was important to build his brand – especially in today’s MMA landscape where sometimes names overshadow merits.

“This is the fight that I wanted,” Sandhagen told MMA Junkie at a pre-fight news conference. “I know that building a name is really important in this sport. One of the main motivators behind me asking for a fight with T.J. is him and Yan were kind of going back and forth a little bit. I remember (Petr) Yan saying that if he beats (Aljamain) Sterling, he wanted someone with some name value.

“It’s just about taking out anyone else’s argument. That’s kind of what it’s always been about since I lost against Sterling. That’s what I’m going to do until I get my title shot.”

In his most recent two outings, Sandhagen won via electrifying knockout. First, it was a spinning wheel kick that ended his fight against Marlon Moraes. Then, it was a body-stiffening flying knee landed on Frankie Edgar.

Finish or not at UFC on ESPN 27, Sandhagen thinks a three-fight winning skid over two former champions and a former title challenger should be enough to punch that title shot ticket.

“A win is a win in my eyes,” Sandhagen said. “I think that when I get knockouts like the last couple that I’ve had, it’s by no really doing of me other than me just playing my game and them making a mistake. That’s kind of how I approach every fight. I’m going to go out there. I’m going to do what I do. If you leave me too many openings and you make too many mistakes, then I’m going to be able to capitalize on them.”

If Sandhagen is next in line, he’ll likely have to wait for the winner of the bantamweight title rematch between champion Aljamain Sterling and former champion Petr Yan. Both matchups interest Sandhagen greatly. It’s all about proving who’s “the king of the jungle.”

“Both would be sweet in their own way. I really want to get my loss back against Sterling just because I have an ego inside of me that doesn’t want people thinking that anyone is better than me. That’s kind of what we’re all doing out here. We’re proving where we all stack up on the food chain. It would really make me happy to have everyone know that I’m higher on the food chain than both Sterling and Yan.

“Proving that against Sterling would be sweet. Beating Yan, because I know people think very, very highly of Yan (and I think very highly of his skills also, too), but taking out a competitor like that where people see this guy as the top dog like I said, I have an ego inside me. I want to prove that I’m king of the jungle, that I’m the highest one on the food chain. So both of those would be sweet wins.”

UFC on ESPN 27 takes place Saturday at the UFC Apex. The card airs on ESPN.

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