Longtime UFC bantamweight veteran Aljamain Sterling captured the 135-pound title from Russian bruiser Petr Yan at the UFC 259 pay-per-view (PPV) event last Sat. night (March 6, 20210) at APEX in Las Vegas, Nevada.
And he did it without longtime coach Matt Serra by his side.
That’s because “Funk Master” relocated to Las Vegas ahead of his “No Mercy” fight, enlisting the services of local coach Eric Nicksick. While Serra had nothing but praise for the Xtreme Couture fixture, “The Terror” was “hurt” by the way Sterling handled the decision.
“When I found out I wasn’t in it, I gave Aljo a call. I felt stupid because I made a call before that and left a nice message. Then I got the call from Longo and he said, ‘How are you out of the corner? It’s your team.’ I said you fucking tell me. But at the same time, I didn’t want his head fucked up before the fight so I didn’t attack him. I called him and left a message and said, ‘I love you and I’m here for you either way if you need me.’ I told Aljo a few weeks before he left (for Las Vegas) that the COVID shit is crazy so if you need to use bodies (for corners) I understand. But when you’ve been with a guy for that long — first of all, Aljo texted me and said he would call me back, but I didn’t hear from the kid for three days. I don’t want to be over-sensitive, but how do you think those nights were sleeping? I’m just hurt. I know you’re busy and things are going on but I gotta know what the fuck I’m doing.”
“So when I talked to him, we talked a little bit about sparring partners and this and that. So I understand if it’s about that, I understand. But then I’m watching (UFC 259) and I have nothing against Eric Nicksick, he’s a nice guy and it’s not his fault Aljo went there, but it’s like, hey man, you’re gonna have some guy you been working with for three months and I’ve been with you for seven years? If that’s what you want then I understand. But this is the thing. Now, this is no longer this thing of ours with mine or Longo. And that’s all, we did this (Team Serra-Longo) with the intention of guys reaching their goals. But you can’t help but feel disrespected. From the time this guy got into the UFC, you can point to one time I missed a sparing session in seven years. I got a family, but you train, you go, and you do it proudly because you’re backing up your guy. It’s our guy vs. another savage that’s what it is. I’m not going to lie to you, I was a little hurt. And I love everyone involved, but you gotta know when people make choices there are consequences. So I can understand nobody wanted to say anything because they didn’t want to fuck up this kid’s head before the fight. But at the same time, I would have handled things differently if the shoe was on the other foot.”
“My thing is, going forward, it’s better now to make an exit on a high note. I loved cornering, but what is it for the next fight, is it me and Nicksick with rock-paper-scissors to see who gets to corner? I have a family. I will always be in this kid’s corner, just not physically anymore. And not by my choice, but by the choices that are made here. So I’m retiring from the whole cornering thing.”
Sterling left “Sin City” with the bantamweight title — along with an avalanche of criticism, most of it unfair, after “Funk Master” defeated Yan by disqualification. And even though “No Mercy” admitted he cost himself the fight, it hasn’t stopped Sterling from getting mocked Yan (and fans).
As of this writing, Sterling has yet to respond to Serra’s comments.