Somewhat buried on the UFC Fight Night 80 card in a blockbuster triple header weekend in Las Vegas last week, was a bantamweight fight with some serious implications on the title.
Undefeated Serra-Longo fighter Aljamain Sterling choked out Johnny Eduardo in the second round of "prelims" action on UFC Fight pass, becoming the first fighter in more than eight years to accomplish the feat against the veteran Nova Uniao striker.
Yet despite the 12-0 record of Sterling and number five ranking in the bantamweight division, the UFC payouts showed he made $14,000 to show and $14,000 to win. In an exclusive interview with MMAmania.com, the fighter said that will soon change.
"This is nothing [like] asking for handouts," said Sterling from California, where he is vacationing following his fight in Las Vegas. "My thing is, I put in the work. The work is there, the work is done and I'm going to continue choking these guys out. So I think I deserve a lot more money."
Sterling is finished his four fight contract with UFC, in which he went 4-0 with three consecutive finishes. He revealed the promotion now has 90 days to negotiate for a new contract, in which UFC has exclusive matching rights if Bellator or another promotion attempts to lure him away.
It was revealed after UFC Fight Night 80 that Sage Northcutt, the 19-year-old phenom who has just two fights in UFC, made $80,000 to fight Cody Pfister, a fact that didn't escape the notice of Sterling. The fighter will be asking for a contract north of that figure, and if he doesn't get it he hinted there are other promotions that will pay.
"At the end of the day I just hope they decide to do right by me. And if not I know there's someone else who will do right by me out there," he said, adding UFC hasn't had him fight more than once every six months anyway so he knows there's plenty of time to work out a deal.
Some fighters raised an eyebrow over the promotion for UFC Fight Night 80, including Michael Chiesa and Al Iaquinta, who took to social media to suggest the focus on Paige VanZant and Northcutt was overlooking other talented fighters.
Sterling said UFC chose to promote the "Twilight" fighters on the card, referencing the popular teenage vampire film series.
"I think they were promoting the beauty of the card over the skillset of the card. And that's fine because at the end of the day it's the UFC's promotion, they can do whatever they want and however they want to market it. If that was the theme of that card then so be it."
Photo: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
Despite being known as a talented two-time NCAA Division III All-American wrestler, Sterling has shown some competent Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu inside the Octagon, finishing his last two opponents via submission. The fighter says that just shows how complete his game has become.
"I pride myself on trying to finish opponents. Nobody wants to see a wrestler in the first place and nobody wants to see a wrestler come in and just wrack up decisions. So if I'm going to use my wrestling, which already has a negative stereotype to it, I'm going to reassess people's perception of what a wrestler is in terms of being a fighter."
Nobody is sure how close "Funk Master" is to a title shot, and he'll be keeping a watchful eye on the upcoming title bout between T.J. Dillashaw and Dominick Cruz at UFC Fight Night 81, knowing he may eventually face one or both of those fighters in the future.
When pressed about who he'd rather fight if given the choice, he says the current champion would better fit his style.
"I feel like the harder person to fight I think would be Cruz because it would be harder for me to get a hold of him. And I think with Dillashaw he's more aggressive in terms of his attack and it would be a lot easier for me to get a hold of him and he's a smaller guy where I think I wrap him up, he's not going anywhere."