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UFC indicates Corey Sandhagen will fight for 135-pound title by defeating Umar Nurmagomedov in Abu Dhabi


Corey Sandhagen is one of the most easy-going guys in all of mixed martial arts.

He doesn't complain, doesn't make demands, and never backs down from a fight. But don't think for a second that The Sandman doesn't know his worth. So when the UFC approached him about a main event fight with Umar Nurmagomedov in Abu Dhabi on August 3, Sandhagen was more than willing to take the fight as long as the juice was worth it.

Corey Sandhagen vs. Umar Nurmagomedov

“I’m not trying 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 seem a little unreasonable to me, but it's not the most unreasonable request. It will still be the main event in a really cool city.

“I will go to the Middle East again, and it is a pleasure for me. I'll actually be able to do a little before and after research and go early to completely change the time zone, which I haven't done the last couple of times. I'm still very excited about it. The last couple of times the Abu Dhabi fans have been really amazing and fair. The last couple of times I didn't feel like I was in enemy territory or anything like that. So yeah, I'm still excited about it.”

In addition to earning extra money for a trip to the Middle East, Cory Sandhagen will be fighting for his first shot at the undisputed bantamweight world title.

Corey SandhagenCorey Sandhagen

Current 135-pound king “Sugar” Sean O'Malley is preparing to fight the division's top contender, Merab Dvalishvili, later this year, with the winner likely to face either Sandhagen or Nurmagomedov.

“Obviously the first time I went to dinner with the UFC, they offered me Umar and I was like, 'That's a little lower in the rankings.' They said, “Well, this is going to be a No. 1 contender fight.” I thought, “Okay, absolutely.” This option was then apparently scrapped (in August 2023 when Nurmagomedov pulled out).

“This is a workaround, they conveyed to me that I don’t want to give the exact quote, but: “I don’t know how you won’t be next after Merab (Dvalishvili) if you win this fight.” Besides, who else can really do it? “I also think Sean and I have a really big fight.”

Corey SandhagenCorey Sandhagen

Corey Sandhagen will root for Sean O'Malley

After winning 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. O'Malley initially lobbied for a champion vs. champion fight with Ilia Topuria before Dana White quickly ended those negotiations.

Dvalishvili will get his first title shot on a 10-fight winning streak, his most recent victory coming against former two-division champion Henry Cejudo. As it stands, “The Machine” is odds-on to emerge victorious in the yet-to-be-announced bout and is a -125 (55.56% implied odds) favorite at many bookmakers.

Sandhagen would happily fight either fighter, but he believes a fight with Sean O'Malley would be a much more marketable fight.

“I'll be rooting for (Sean) O'Malley in the next fight, just because the bigger the fight, the bigger the challenge, the better,” Sandhagen said. “I'll be rooting for O'Malley, and the fans really, really want that. I really want to give the fans what they want. So yes, I hope so. … I think they both have very, very difficult challenges ahead of them, in different ways. Merab should definitely be able to cover this space better than he has in the past. O'Malley then stopped some good shots from Sterling. O'Malley can definitely wrestle, too. But dealing with this body type is quite difficult.

“It’s a little strange, but it’s such a big gap that Merab will have to fill. It will be very difficult for him. It may take a while, but it's clear that Sean is in good shape and can move his legs. We also saw this in the fight in Chito. I think Merab has more to do than O'Malley, but Merab definitely has a huge heart. He fought for a world title for a very, very long time, so it’s hard to ignore that.”


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