Coming off the lone loss of his career to start off his 2017, featherweight prospect Cory Sandhagen was looking to rebound when he faced Toninho Gavinho at LFA 24 last October, and ended up performing just about as well as he could have wanted.
According to Sandhagen, against Gavinho, he was able to perform up to his potential and have the kind of fight he’d always been looking to have.
“I was really proud of that one, because that was the first one where I felt like I went out and did exactly what I was capable of doing,” Sandhagen told MMAWeekly.com. “In other fights I was a little bit hesitant and held back a little bit. But in that one I was fully in the fight and was really clear-minded and focus in that one.
“(Gavinho) was kind of muscle-y, so I figured he’d get tired, so the game plan was to put a lot of pressure on him, and to get him to swing big, and I’d get out of the way and eventually land something good.”
For Sandhagen, being able to have a fully realized performance comes at the help of a kind of coach that some people might not immediately associate with fighter success.
“I had the loss early in the year, which I’m kind of glad happened,” said Sandhagen. “It made me realize I needed more than just skills to win a fight.
“That one I lost because I wasn’t all the way focused on that fight. Last year was a lot of me taking the summer off and working with a sport psychologist and figuring what motivates me and what drives me, and I think it showed in October.”
Sandhagen (6-1) will look to build off his recent win when he takes on Jose Aguayo (2-0) in a main card 145-pound bout at LFA 31 on Friday in Phoenix.
“Jose fights a little bit unorthodox,” Sandhagen said. “I know that he’s going to be a little bit awkward. I’m not going to rush too many things and make mistakes.
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“I’m just going to do what I do every fight: just poke at him and try to land something big or finish him with kicks. It could be a little bit of a drawn-out fight because of how awkward he is, but maybe it’ll be another finish.”
Sandhagen has a clear idea of where he wants to be in 2018, but he’s not going to sweat the details and instead let things come as they may this year.
“I’m going to cross bridges as they come,” said Sandhagen. “I’m going to take it one day at a time and see when that time comes. But the goal is definitely the UFC.
“Whether I have to take a couple more fights in the LFA and maybe get a title shot, or get on (Dana White’s) Contenders Series, or taking something short notice, (getting into the UFC) is the goal by the end of the year.”