UFC bantamweight contender Cory Sandhagen believes that a victory over Petr Yan in the UFC 267 co-main event, scheduled for Sat., Oct. 30, 2021 inside Etihad Arena on “Fight Island” in Abu Dhabi, makes him the “real” division champion despite the interim label.
That’s because Yan is still recognized as the “true” champion of the weight class, according to Sandhagen, even though “No Mercy” was forced to surrender the 135-pound strap after being disqualified against Aljamain Sterling at UFC 259 last March in Las Vegas.
Sandhagen might want to compare notes with former champion TJ Dillashaw.
“I didn’t lose my belt due to a loss,” Dillashaw told The MMA Hour. “I lost my belt due to the decision I made and they had to vacate it. So when these guys are talking about they’re feeling like they’re going to be the true champion even though [Sandhagen] goes out and beats Yan. No, because Yan was never the true champion. He never beat the champion in the bantamweight division to actually become a champion.”
Dillashaw likes to use the word “vacate” the same way a person who got fired likes to use the word “quit.” The reality is Dillashaw was stripped of his title after failing a drug test back in early 2019. Henry Cejudo captured the crown by turning away Marlon Moraes, then abruptly retired in the wake of his one-and-only title defense opposite Dominick Cruz.
Yan later stopped Jose Aldo at UFC 251 to become bantamweight champion, only to lose it to Sterling in his very next fight. As a result, Dillashaw believes he may have the strongest claim to being the “true” 135-pound champion after beating Sandhagen last July.
“There was never a real linear champion anyways and now they’re fighting for an interim belt,” Dillashaw continued. “I already proved myself. I came back, I came off a two year layoff, fought the No. 1 contender. That title fight’s mine when I come back. From what I’ve been told, I’m fighting for the belt next, no matter when that belt is.”
Dillashaw is currently recovering from knee surgery and will return in early 2022.