Aljamain Sterling is set to defend his Bantamweight belt against Sean O’Malley at UFC 292 inside TD Garden in Boston, Mass., on Aug. 19, 2023, and the 135-pound kingpin is finally sounding like he’s committed to the fight ... even if O’Malley doesn’t deserve it.
There was a whole lot of back-and-forth between Sterling and UFC over the date of the O’Malley fight. “Funkmaster” wanted it later in the year, while Dana White was insisting it go down in Boston, just 3.5 months after Sterling defeated Henry Cejudo at UFC 288. After a lot of speculation that the fight may not go down (and the possibility of a O’Malley vs. Cejudo fight for an interim title), the champ is in full fight hype mode.
In the first episode of his Road To The Suga Show YouTube series, Sterling dismissed O’Malley’s legitimate contender status. He pointed out that all O’Malley’s big wins came via guys who are no longer in UFC.
“Terrion Ware, no longer in the UFC. Andre Soukhamthath, no longer in the UFC,” Sterling said. “Raulian Paiva, I don’t think he’s in the UFC. Thomas Almeida, he’s no longer in the UFC. Who else did he knockout? Kris Moutinho TKO, even though they probably should have let the fight keep going ... No longer in the UFC.
“You get this guy who’s kind of come in, has had these tailor-made fights that were handpicked for him to look like a superstar, and in all fairness, I’m not even mad at that,” he continued. “What I’m more annoyed with is the fact that he has an opportunity to really stake his claim and declare to the division, bow down gracefully and say ‘Hey, guys, this is who I am and I’m here.’ Instead he goes out and fights ‘Chito’ [Vera], literally the fight lasts like three minutes.
“He throws a couple of kicks, gets kicked once, he falls over, gets punched like one time and his lights get shut out. TKO’d. He gets knocked out by ‘Chito,’ somehow moves up. He ends up fighting Pedro [Munhoz], Edward Scissorhands his eyeballs on his fingertips, and he ends up fighting Petr Yan?”
In Sterling’s eyes, O’Malley has been failing upward, while he had to beat all the toughest guys in the division to get his title shot.
“Dude, we are not the same, we are just not the same,” he concluded. “I’ve cut my teeth in this sport and in this division. What am I, 15-3 now? What are we even talking about? I got the resume. So I don’t think Sean deserved the spot. But I learned a very good quote ... ‘It’s not about what you deserve, it’s about what you can negotiate.’ And somehow this man was able to negotiate his way into a title shot, and now he’s here.”
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