Aljamain Sterling isn’t looking to rush into his next title defense.
Immediately upon winning his most recent bout against T.J. Dillashaw at UFC 280 two weekends ago (Oct. 22, 2022) in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, fans began pondering what’s next for Sterling. Whether it’s his fellow winner from that night, Sean O’Malley, or former champion, Henry Cejudo, “Funk Master” isn’t short on options.
Unfortunately for all fighters atop the 135-pound division, they’ll have to wait until the champion is ready for them. After two successful appearances in 2022 against Dillashaw and Petr Yan in April, Sterling is planning to take his time going forward.
“Okay, so this is a message to all my Bantamweights out there,” Sterling said on Twitter. “For all the people that have actually been in a five round fight, you know how intense those five round training camps are. Especially mine because I go hard in the paint. Henry, you should know exactly what I’m talking about. You’ve been through these five round camps but you’ve been on the sideline for two and a half years.
“I have no problem fighting you, Henry,” he continued. “I just want the biggest fight. If that’s you then step up to the plate. If you want to wait for your boy, you can wait. If not, take another fight and kick rocks. [Marlon] ‘Chito’ [Vera], [Cory] Sandhagen, Sean O’Malley, whatever. Anyone of you guys, if you want to wait for me, give me some time to let my body heal. It’s not easy for me to make 135.”
Sterling finished Dillashaw at UFC 280 via technical knockout in round two (watch highlights) with ground and pound punches. While he didn’t go the full five rounds, the fight was Sterling’s third straight five-rounder he had to prepare for.
Typically pretty active as a fighter, Sterling has been averaging roughly two fights a year since 2017 when he fought four times. 2017 marked the most times he’d fought in one year since 2011, having five fights that began with his professional debut.
“These five round training camps are not these three round fights where people make these quick turnarounds,” Sterling said. “That’s why champions don’t typically fight more than one time a year. Two if they’re lucky. I fought twice already, give me a little bit of time, I’ll come back and kick everybody’s ass. Let’s go.”