Cory Sandhagen says UFC indicated title shot comes with Umar Nurmagomedov win, hopes for Sean O’Malley

If there’s someone who is go-with-the-flow on the roster, it’s Cory Sandhagen.

There may not be a more laid-back fighter in UFC history, but he remains self-aware. Sandhagen (17-4 MMA, 10-3 UFC) knows the position he’s in and the likely stakes that will come with his Aug. 3 main event bout vs. Umar Nurmagomedov (17-0 MMA, 5-0 UFC) in Abu Dhabi.

Sandhagen is not one to turn down an opportunity, but also recently told MMA Junkie that he has a price for everything. With this fight, Sandhagen liked the gains.

“I don’t try to complain too much,” Sandhagen said. “I try not to have too many opinions. I just ask for more money if they want me to do things that I feel like are a little bit unreasonable, not that it was the most unreasonable ask. It’s still going to be a main event in a really cool city. I get to go to the Middle East again, which is fun for me. I’ll actually be able to explore a little bit before and after and go early to do the whole shifting my time zone thing, which I didn’t do the last couple times. I’m still really excited about it. The last couple times, Abu Dhabi fans were really awesome and really fair. I didn’t feel like I was in enemy territory or anything the last couple times. So yeah, I’m still excited about it.”

While a paycheck is surely a large part of the fight negotiation equation, Sandhagen also revealed all signs (from the UFC) point toward this fight being a title eliminator for him. Sandhagen is on a three-fight winning streak, comprised of victories over Song Yadong, Marlon Vera, and Rob Font.

“Obviously, the first time that I went to dinner with the UFC, they offered me Umar, and I was like, ‘That’s a little bit down in the rankings.’ They were like, ‘Well, it’ll be a No. 1 contender fight.’ I was like, ‘OK, absolutely.’ Then, obviously that one got scrapped (in August 2023 when Nurmagomedov withdrew). This go-around, they relayed to me I don’t want to say the exact quote but, ‘I don’t know how you won’t be next after Merab (Dvalishvili), if you win this fight.’ Also, who else is there that can really do that? I also think that me and Sean is a really huge fight.”

The aforementioned bout between O’Malley and Dvalishvili does not have a date or location yet. Both fighters have indicated they will be ready for a fall showdown. Should Sandhagen earn a title fight in August, he hopes O’Malley is the one who stands across from him for his first UFC championship bout.

“I’ll be rooting for (Sean) O’Malley in the next one, just because the bigger the fight, the bigger the challenge, the better,” Sandhagen said. “I’ll be rooting for O’Malley and that’s one the fans want to see really, really bad. I really want to give the fans what they want. So yeah, I hope that’s the case. … I think that they both have really, really tough tasks ahead of them in very different ways. Merab definitely needs to be able to close that space better than he has shown to do in the past. Then, O’Malley defended a few of Sterling’s pretty good shots. O’Malley can definitely wrestle, too. But wrestling that body type is kind of difficult.

“It’s a little bit weird but that’s such a big gap that Merab is going to have to cover. It’s going to be really tough on him. It might take him a while and obviously Sean is in really good shape and can move his feet. We saw (that) from the Chito fight, too. I think Merab has his hands more full than O’Malley does, but Merab definitely has a ton of heart. He’s been chomping at the bit for this world title for a really, really long time, so it’s hard to not count that in either.”

Story originally appeared on MMA Junkie