Sandhagen is afraid his No. 1 contender spot will be usurped
based on name, rather than accomplishment.
The past weekend, the “Sandman” (14-2) scored the most crucial
victory of his career and secured a possible 135-pound title shot
when he knocked out former lightweight champ Frankie
Edgar with a flying knee in just 28 seconds. Now, it appears
that he has some unsolved business with another former titleholder,
two-time bantamweight champion T.J.
Dillashaw, who has finished his two-year USADA suspension and
is about to make his return. Sandhagen believes that Dillashaw, a
onetime training partner, has no interest in fighting him for a
spot at the top of the division.
“The guy was supposed to be back in January,” Sandhagen said
this week on
ESPN. “The time would’ve been perfect for us to fight, and he
didn’t, so I don’t know what that’s about. I don’t think he wants
the fight. I’m worried that T.J. is going to fight for the belt
before me and still not want the fight, and then me be kind of
stuck in this limbo thing because T.J. is just a bigger name, and
maybe he just gets to call the shots a little more. That’s what I’m
Sandhagen then added a few details about when he and Dillashaw
trained together. According to him, Sandhagen prevailed when it
came to sparring behind closed doors.
“I did well against T.J. in the gym when we used to train together,
and I think that’s another reason that he doesn’t want to take the
fight,” he added. “I don’t even think T.J. should even be in the
conversation right now, especially off of his history. He was doing
some of the most serious steroids that you can do in this sport. He
was giving himself an unfair advantage in combat sports, which is
just disrespectful to everyone in the division and the sport. I
don’t want to see him come back and just get a title shot. To me,
that’s not cool.”
Dillashaw (16-4) has been absent from competition since Jan. 19,
2019, when his attempt to drop to flyweight and become a
two-division champion ended in a first-round knockout loss to
Cejudo. Two months later, Dillashaw relinquished his
bantamweight title, one day ahead of the announcement that he had
tested positive for erythropoietin, a banned performance enhancer.
The resulting two-year suspension ended last month, but the
35-year-old has yet to have a date or opponent announced for his
return to action.