Reigning Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) bantamweight king Aljamain Sterling is moving back his proposed title fight with Henry Cejudo once again.
As Sterling still recovers from a nasty bicep injury his return to the Octagon continues to be put on hold. The 33-year-old champion was last seen defending his title in a TKO victory over former titleholder T.J. Dillashaw back at UFC 280 this past October. It was Sterling’s second-straight title defense and a defining victory that cemented his spot atop the weight class.
Sterling was rumored to be defending his belt against Cejudo this coming March before the potential title fight got moved to April. It now appears “Funk Master” is aiming for a May showdown with Cejudo.
“‘Triple Zero’ is next. 110 percent, he’s next,” said Sterling during a recent interview with The Schmo. “It’s not going to be April though. After talking with my medical team and the doctors, we’re going to give myself a little bit more time. It’s going to be May. It’s kind of crazy how everything kind of comes full circle. After the fight, I knew I had these injuries coming into the fight, before the rematch with [Petr] Yan, then the T.J. [Dillashaw] fight kind of kicked the can down the road. Then I knew bioXccelerators are going to be very good. I’m very optimistic about that and I think it’s going to get me back to 100 percent so I can compete against a tough competitor like Triple Zero and remind him that he should have stayed retired.”
While some fighters may keep injuries to themselves in effort to not alert the competition Sterling doesn’t feel threatened by Cejudo’s knowledge of his bicep ailment. Instead, the champion welcomes all challengers and believes he will produce the same results that he has been.
“It doesn’t matter what he’s got going on,” Sterling said. “I’m going to show up the way I show up. He’s knows what’s bothering me already. I’m going to get it as close to 100 percent as I can, the same way I’ve gone out there for my last two fights and the same way I’ve gone out there before almost every single fight. A fighter [who] goes out there is never 100 percent. We try to make sure we’re as healthy as possible. It’s no different for T.J., it’s no different for Cejudo, Petr Yan, it doesn’t matter who you are. You step into that cage, you make the choice to sign on the dotted line, pretty much you seal your fate. So whatever happens, let the best man win, and I feel like that best man is always going to be me.”
Sterling, who is currently riding an eight-fight bantamweight win streak, also believes his time in the division is limited. Outside of a potential clash with Cejudo and maybe a money fight with popular contender Sean O’Malley the UFC champion is thinking about a move to featherweight. This would help clear a path for Sterling’s long-time teammate, Merab Dvalishvili, at 135 pounds.
“I could see a second-round finish, TKO, and after I finish Henry Cejudo, I really don’t think the bantamweight division has anything left for me,” Sterling said. “Maybe a money fight with Sean O’Malley, if he can get his toenails in order and make sure he stays pretty on the sideline and healthy, doesn’t want to fight anyone tough at the top of the division, because he needs more time to get ready for the grappling. And I understand. We’d probably just run through him right now. So maybe that fight might entice me, or I’m probably just going to go up 145 and let Merab [Dvalishvili] to reign terror on the rest of these guys in the bantamweight division.”