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Henry Cejudo expects Merab Dvalishvili title eliminator after Cory Sandhagen snoozer: ‘This is not the way’

UFC 288: Sterling v Cejudo Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

Henry Cejudo feels his chances of re-entering the immediate title scene just strengthened.

UFC Nashville went down this past weekend (Aug. 5, 2023) and unfortunately left a sour taste in the mouths of fans around the globe, including UFC President, Dana White. The main event featured a short-notice pairing between top 135-pound competitors, Cory Sandhagen and the replacement, Rob Font, after Uamr Nurmagomedov suffered an injury.

Sandhagen went on to perform a wrestling clinic, shutting down Font with seven takedowns throughout an uneventful five rounds to earn a unanimous decision win. The recent title challenger and former champion, Cejudo, believes this was perfect for his chances of taking on the No. 1-ranked contender, Merab Dvalishvili, with title implications on the line.

“The way the Bantamweight division is connected, it’s about performance, man,” Cejudo said on his YouTube channel (h/t MMA Junkie). “We’re all looking to get back to the title. … If Sandhagen wants a title shot, this is not the way to go about it. It’s going to be me and Merab, dude. That’s the only thing that makes logical sense.”

Cejudo last fought at UFC 288 in May 2023, dropping a split decision loss to the current champion, Aljamain Sterling. Sterling defends his title against Sean O’Malley at UFC 292 in Boston, Massachusetts next weekend (Sat., Aug. 19, 2023).

The fight for Sterling has a chance of being his last at Bantamweight as he wants to allow his best friend and teammate, Dvalishvili, a shot at gold without fighting him. Things will have to play out with him and O’Malley first, but Cejudo is feeling extra motivated as both he, “The Machine,” and now Sandhagen all heal from their respective injuries.

“Sandhagen’s fighting too conservative,” Cejudo said. “I think he just wants to win just to win. Come on, dude. You’ve got to get the principles of this game. It’s me and Merab, 100 percent. We’re either fighting for the title or we’re fighting to fight for the title.

“That’s it. Thank you. … We’re all hunting to get to that next Bantamweight title shot: me, Merab,” he concluded. “If you don’t know how to play this game, bro, you just got passed up because that’s terrible. It would be crazy if the UFC were to skip me and Merab over this.”

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