UFC Vegas 32: Sandhagen not underestimating Dillashaw; opens up on Sterling, Hinduism

A win over the returning TJ Dillashaw at UFC Vegas 32 will hand Cory Sandhagen a Bantamweight title shot against either champion Aljamain Sterling or his UFC 267 challenger Petr Yan.

Sandhagen felt it would be silly to underestimate his upcoming opponent as he heads to the Apex in Nevada.   -  SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT

After over two years, the much-anticipated return of former two-time Bantamweight champion TJ Dillashaw will happen against the No.2-ranked contender in the division -- Cory Sandhagen -- at UFC Vegas 32 on Saturday. 

This bout was initially scheduled for May, but a cut received by Dillashaw from a headbutt in training led to its postponement.

Sandhagen, who is one victory away from a title shot, feels it would be silly to underestimate his upcoming opponent as he heads to the Apex in Nevada.

In March 2019, Dillashaw relinquished his Bantamweight belt following positive drug tests for Erythropoietin, a banned substance. His countryman Aljamain Sterling is the division's current titleholder.

He will face Petr Yan at UFC 267 in October this year in a rematch of their UFC 259 bout, during which Yan dropped the title by disqualification due to an illegal knee.

Meanwhile, Sandhagen, who is on a two-bout winning streak after his submission loss to Sterling in June 2020, is determined to get back to the top.

He spoke about Dillashaw, the Bantamweight championship, his favourite UFC stars, Hinduism and more during a chat with Sportstar.

Do you think you're the favourite against Dillashaw, who is fighting after 30 months and a recent training injury?

I'm not one to write off someone who's been a former champion, done a lot in this sport and is a good fighter. So, whether he comes as a better version or a worse version, I'm expecting the best from TJ. My game plan is always to go out and win, hurt the other person, and keep myself safe. Those are the three things that I care about. So I'm ready for an MMA fight, not just a fancy footwork fight.

Considering you beat Dillashaw, when do you want to fight for the title?

After a win, I want to fight for the title as soon as possible. It's hard sitting on the bench for too long, which isn't fun for me. So I want to stay busy. But I know that's out of my hands. Whenever UFC wants to have the title bout after October, I'll be ready.

Can you predict the UFC 267 rematch between Sterling and Yan?

I would say Yan was winning the first one. I anticipate that Sterling won't make a lot of changes from back then. It is hard to imagine him being able to do so with his neck surgery. So if I had to bet on it, I'd put my money on Yan.

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Are you desperate to avenge the defeat against Sterling?

I think I didn't go into the fight as mentally prepared as I should have been. I've proven in the last two fights that I have corrected that issue. I'm excited to fight Sterling next if that would be the fight I get, so I can show everyone that the first one was a fluke.

Who are the fighters you look up to in UFC?

Jose Aldo and Dominick Cruz are some of my favourites. I like Max Holloway now. They're my top three. I was a big Chuck Liddell guy also, and of course, Georges St-Pierre. I loved watching all their fights.

Are you open to travelling to Asia in your career sometime in the future?

My girlfriend of about three years is half-Japanese, so we'd like to take a trip to Japan. I'm a big fan of the Hinduism religion, so I'd like to visit India too.

Watch UFC Fight Night - Sandhagen vs Dillashaw LIVE on Sony Ten 2 & Sony Ten 3 (Hindi) channels on 25th July 2021 from 4:30 AM IST.

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