Aljamain Sterling was impressed with Alexander Volkanovski’s latest title defense at UFC 290 this past weekend (July 8, 2023).
The UFC Featherweight champion, Volkanovski’s, third round technical knockout of Yair Rodriguez was the fifth time he’s successfully fended off a challenger. Before facing Rodriguez, Volkanovski made a brief trek up to Lightweight to claim Lightweight gold. Unfortunately for “The Great,” the 155-pound titlist, Islam Makhachev, turned him away via unanimous decision (watch highlights).
Volkanovski still hopes to get a second crack at Makhachev but the timeline for when that may be an option is uncertain. At Featherweight, Ilia Topuria has risen to contention and will be the likely next challenger. However, should Sterling get by Sean O’Malley in his upcoming Bantamweight title defense at UFC 292 on Aug. 19, 2023, “Funkmaster” hopes to challenge the Australian legend.
“I would love to get that challenge before he would hang it up and be all said and done,” Sterling said on his YouTube channel. “I missed the opportunity to fight Jose Aldo. I’ve been trying to fight some of these guys who are considered the greatest or the biggest names. Petr Yan, Cory Sandhagen, T.J. Dillashaw, Henry Cejudo, now fighting Sean, who’s gonna be kind of like my Conor McGregor moment. Then to have an opportunity to fight Volkanovski would be like a real legacy-defining moment for my career. I would even say for him, too.”
Sterling, 33, last fought in May 2023, earning his third consecutive title defense by defeating Cejudo via a split decision. Known for his high fight IQ and phenomenal Olympic-level wrestling background, Cejudo didn’t make it easy for Sterling despite returning after a three-year retirement.
In a potential clash with the Featherweight champion, Sterling sees similarities to Cejudo that he’d be faced with.
“I think the thing that makes the fight between myself and Volk interesting is — people can say, ‘Oh, he’s gonna crush you in one,’ whatever,” Sterling said. “These guys keep saying this. Not the fans, the actual other people who just have something to always harp on about. I think the thing we both bring to the table is the fight IQ and being able to make those adjustments. I think that’s for me the challenge just like it was for Henry.
“The fight was close even though in my head I’m like, ‘Dude, I’m easily up four rounds going into this fifth,’” he continued. “I think what makes it interesting is what he brings to the table in terms of the adjustments he can make. When he made that mid-fight adjustment against Yair Rodriguez in the third round, it was like after that headbutt sequence, I think Yair should have taken a little bit longer of time [to recover].”