Aljamain Sterling still doesn’t think he’s getting the respect he deserves as an Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) champion.
The “Funk Master” made a successful second career Bantamweight title defense against T.J. Dillashaw this past weekend (Oct. 22, 2022) at UFC 280 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. Utilizing his dominant wrestling game, Sterling took down Dillashaw with relative ease in the opening two rounds, battering and finishing him with ground-and-pound punches (watch highlights).
During the big fight week, UFC President, Dana White, highlighted the winner of Petr Yan versus Sean O’Malley — which also took place that night — as the next challenger for the title. When asked about who could be next for Sterling after the night concluded, however, White threw out the name of a former two-division champion, Henry Cejudo, which left Sterling perplexed.
“I like Dana on a personal level, outside of the cameras and everything, I like Dana,” Sterling told The MMA Hour. “But, some of the things he actually says are beyond me sometimes. You go on record, you say whoever wins [the O’Malley-Yan] fight is clearly getting the No. 1 shot because it makes sense. After the fight, everything completely changes and then you throw Henry ‘Cedoodoo’ in the mix and I’m just completely confused because this guy hasn’t fought in over two years. You don’t want to give him a [Featherweight] title shot to go be triple champ, which I’m not opposed to because I think if anyone deserves it based on merit, it’s him. I’m not a hater by any means. But then the guy comes back after two years, fought at 125, fought twice maybe at ‘35, and he’s supposed to come back and get an immediate title shot after doing what?
“So now it’s like I almost feel — and I could be completely wrong — I almost feel like they’re looking for a last hope of someone who can take out Aljamain Sterling,” he continued. “They’re hoping that they can make this narrative of the Olympic wrestling now. D-1 wasn’t good enough, now the Olympic wrestling might be good enough to take out the D-3 wrestler. But I can tell you one thing for certain, this ass-whooping is an equal-opportunity employer. All races, all colors can get it. It really doesn’t matter. If it’s Henry, if it’s ‘Chito’ [Marlon Vera] from Ecuador, if it’s O’Malley with the colorful hair, Mr. Sugar Tits, if it’s a rematch with Yan because we know the UFC likes to give title shots to people coming off of losses, if they want to give it to [Cory] Sandhagen, there’s plenty of options.”
O’Malley defeated Yan via a controversial split decision in their Bantamweight contender tilt (watch highlights). No matter who the community felt won, it was largely agreed to be a great fight and earned “Fight of the Night” honors.
Sterling feels even O’Malley was surprised he came out the victor and that was indicated by the contender’s post-fight comments, saying he’ll need to rewatch the fight and knew it was very close and competitive. Ultimately, O’Malley knows exactly how it feels to fight to a decision against Yan, says the champion, who fought and defeated Yan twice in his previous outings before Dillashaw.
“I think if anyone is the biggest fight maybe it’s O’Malley, in terms of name value, in terms of performance,” Sterling said. “I think he saw what I did to T.J., he saw what I did to Yan and any of these previous opponents that were in the top five, top 10. Remember, my third UFC fight I fought the No. 6 guy ranked in the world and since then I haven’t fought anyone that was unranked. So my resume speaks for itself.
“These guys who are catching me in the most Bantamweight wins, they fought guys that were on losing records and things like that,” he added. “I never did any of that. No shortcuts, no handouts, so if you can’t respect that then you don’t respect the game.”
As for the aforementioned Cejudo, he’s made it clear that he wants a shot at history by facing Featherweight titleholder, Alexander Volkanovski. Unfortunately for him, Volkanovski is now lined up to expectedly be the first challenger for the new Lightweight champion, Islam Makhachev. Therefore, leaving Cejudo feeling lost when it comes to his potential return.
Sterling is open to the match up, which the two have teased ahead of Sterling landing the Dillashaw fight, but he doesn’t see it as the most interesting for the fans.
“I feel like no one cares about the Henry Cejudo fight but the hardcores,” Sterling said. “I feel like if you want to talk about dollar signs, it’s O’Malley. If you want to talk about legacy, it’s Petr Yan. If you want to talk about an intriguing fight because I got through him really quick and I might have been lucky, you’ve got Sandhagen.”
Who do you want to see challenge Sterling next?
This poll is closed
For complete UFC 280 results and coverage click here.