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Aljamain Sterling ready to ‘whip some ass’ in UFC return following girlfriend’s battle with COVID-19

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11th Annual Fighters Only World MMA Awards Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Streaking UFC bantamweight contender Aljamain Sterling is ready to return to action after helping his girlfriend recover from the COVID-19 virus.

Unlike most fighters who’ve expressed interest in fighting during the current coronavirus outbreak, Sterling has been held up in his home taking care of his sick girlfriend, Rebecca Cruz. Sterling was even rumored to be fighting Cory Sandhagen at UFC San Diego next month (which has since been cancelled), but “Funk Master” had to quickly shut that matchup down as he was unable to properly prepare for a fight.

“That was the entire deal,” Sterling told MMA Fighting. “People didn’t understand what it was. They just think you can just fight and ‘fighters adapt, that’s what you guys do, you fight.’ I’m like it doesn’t work like that. I wasn’t prepared and I wasn’t in any position to get prepared at the time. I’m getting prepared now.

“Good chance that the fight’s probably going to happen. We both verbally agreed. At this point it’s just kind of waiting on the UFC and waiting for the date and the contract. Right now, I’m preparing like I have a fight and it looks like Cory Sandhagen is the guy on the list. Now I’m just getting myself ready to whip some ass.”

While Sandhagen makes for a good opponent, especially considering the rising contender has won his first five UFC appearances, former UFC lightweight champion Frankie Edgar is also lobbying for a shot at “Funk Master.” Either way, Sterling should have a meaningful matchup on his hands when he returns.

That said, Sterling’s biggest battle may have already been won. The 30-year-old UFC veteran did what he needed to do to keep his girlfriend safe and on the path to recovery from the very dangerous coronavirus.

“It wasn’t my story to tell so I didn’t want to talk about it until she was willing to talk about it,” Sterling said. “I told her if she does ever want to talk about it, she’s more than welcome to come on my podcast and talk about it. She did and I think she was happy about it. She had a ton of messages. People that were in the same boat, they were scared and not really sure what to do. They were infected and they didn’t know if there was another side for them.

“So for people to see that someone they knew get out on the other side was a little bit of a confidence booster. Just a little bit more positive than the news we see about this person died, that person died. You don’t hear that much about the people who are actually recovering. I think that was a good case to hear from.”

Luckily, despite seeing his girlfriend battle the effects of COVID-19 like shortness of breath, lack of taste, and a fever, Sterling was able to maintain his social distancing in the same home and keep himself healthy. It wasn’t an easy take, but one that now has “Funk Master” set up for a quick UFC return.

“I felt I was doing a pretty good job of keeping my immune system up and strong,” Sterling said. “Taking the right precautions. I wasn’t freaking out about it but I knew it was a real possibility that I could end up getting it. But at the same time, we’re in the house, if it happens, it happens. It’s one of those things where if it was meant to be, it was meant to be. That’s the way I looked at it.

“Fortunately, I didn’t get it. It allowed me to get into training sooner rather than later. Of course, you have the doubt in your mind, maybe this isn’t a good idea. But at same time, the caretakers on the frontlines are taking care of people who have it and I guess for me, I’m on the frontline at home, and I was being the caretaker. That’s the best way I can put it.”