Aljamain Sterling isn’t certain he could make a fast turnaround for his subsequent title protection, however given the circumstances, he’s open to the concept.
At UFC 288, Sterling efficiently defended his bantamweight title with a cut up choice over Henry Cejudo. Instantly after profitable, Sterling confronted off with No. 1 contender Sean O’Malley contained in the cage, setting the stage for his or her marquee struggle later this 12 months.
That struggle could also be coming sooner fairly than later. After the occasion, UFC President Dana White confirmed it could be subsequent, suggesting it “probably” will take place in August, on the UFC’s rumored return to Boston for UFC 292. That’s a fast turnaround for a champion who simply went 25 arduous minutes towards Cejudo, however one which “The Funk Grasp” stated is likely to be doable if his physique permits.
“This could be the quickest turnaround, I might think about, for a UFC champion,” Sterling instructed Ariel Helwani on The MMA Hour. “I’ll stand corrected, however I believe Volkanovski was 4, 4 and a half [months] from the Abu Dhabi card? … We’d be neck and neck. It’s fast.
“In an ideal world, it wouldn’t. However on the finish of the day, I’m an athlete. I’m a prize fighter on the finish of the day. For me, I’m motivated by competitors, and naturally, the prize. Am I banged up? I’ve bought some issues. The standard. If I can begin coaching subsequent week, I believe it’s attainable. If I may begin. I’ll simply have to attend till subsequent week.
“I’ve bought to get a pair X-rays nonetheless. I crushed my legs on Henry, smashing him. I didn’t care if I used to be going go kick his elbow, I didn’t care if I used to be going to kick his kneecap. I smashed my toes up fairly good on him. So each my toes are fairly swollen, left one is rather a lot worse, but it surely’s victory wounds, so it’s all good.”
If the struggle does occur on that timeline, it could be a 15-week turnaround for Sterling — the second-shortest of his UFC profession.
For the champion, there are two main components for his choice to simply accept the struggle: The chance to earn a considerable payday, and the chance, or lack thereof, within the struggle.
“On the finish of the day, it’s competitors and the prize,” Sterling stated. “It’s simply bought to make sense. I’ve bought to be feeling good, and to date we’re trending in the appropriate route. On the finish of the day, it’s good enterprise, as a result of this card is meant to be large. Supposedly, from what I’m being instructed behind the scenes, Dana is admittedly going to stack this card. And if he stacks this card, that’s a very good motivator in itself to be on an enormous card, since you don’t get pay-per-view factors when you’re not the champ. So it’s like, there’s lots of issues that go into this. And to tug a man like O’Malley down, what’s this man going to do to me? Actually?
“I’m not attempting to be disrespectful, it’s a delicate jab, but it surely’s the reality. It’s a struggle, something may occur. However on the finish of the day, I believe everyone knows what his kryptonite is, and it’s unproven within the octagon. We’ve seen him one time on his again and he was like a fish out on land. ‘Chito’ [Marlon Vera] smashed him and despatched him dwelling. I believe ‘Chito’ may need hit him one time, and his eyes rolled again in his head. That’s not a very good signal.
“He bought hit one time and he was out, so it lets me have slightly bit extra confidence — I don’t assume you may develop a chin over time. I hit him squarely, take him down, that’s struggle is pretty much as good as over, most likely in a single.”
Coming off a win over Petr Yan in October, O’Malley is at present the No. 3 ranked bantamweight within the MMA Fighting Global Rankings and is among the largest stars within the sport.
That being stated, O’Malley’s excessive rating comes largely on the again of his win over Yan, versus a sustained observe document of success like others within the division. Consequently, Sterling admits that have been the circumstances completely different, if as a substitute he was being requested to face somebody like Cejudo on a fast turnaround, he most likely wouldn’t be open to the concept.
“That’s very completely different — very, very completely different,” Sterling stated. “Henry took lots of preparation. I give the man his flowers, he’s a troublesome dude, sensible man. The way in which he makes changes in the course of the struggle jogs my memory of myself. These are arduous issues to determine and regulate to. So if it’s Henry, perhaps not. That’s an trustworthy reply.”
Sterling went on to notice that he does have some lingering points from the Cejudo bout that he would ideally wish to heal up, together with ongoing hassle along with his bicep. Nevertheless, he additionally insisted that in the end this can be too good of a chance to cross up, not only for the cash, however for the legacy as nicely.
“The following two weeks we are able to discover out if this struggle is unquestionably going to occur, if I could make this work, and if my physique is feeling as much as it,” Sterling stated. “And once more, I’m a prize fighter. This can be a stacked card. This may very well be some actual life-changing scenario, and that’s at all times a very good factor.
“Cash is at all times good, however competitors too. This could be one other probability so as to add one other notch to the belt, one other ruby. And actually making it arduous for the document for anybody to beat it. This weight class is so aggressive, I don’t care who it’s that will get right here, good luck defending the belt as many occasions as I did, good luck defending the belt as many occasions as Dom did. Or twice! It’s going to be a troublesome activity. Everybody goes to have a goal in your again, and it’s a very good drawback to have.”
And if it does occur? If Sterling makes the fast turnaround and efficiently defends his title for a document fourth time? Nicely, then it’s on to larger and higher challenges — specifically, a struggle towards the winner of the upcoming featherweight title struggle between Alexander Volkanovski and Yair Rodriguez.
“I win this struggle, I believe it’s my final struggle at [bantamweight]” Sterling stated. “Respectfully, I might like to struggle Yair or Volkanovski. I believe it’s only a enjoyable struggle, I believe it’s one other alternative to chase greatness. … I’d wish to say I used to be double champ-champ. It will be good.
“The way in which I see it’s, I defend the belt, we’ll see what occurs with the Volk struggle, and go from there. We’ll see what the timeline appears to be like like, and see if there’s an actual risk to not have the division tied up the place the UFC will enable me to carry the belt so I can a minimum of say I’m the champ doing promos main as much as the struggle. I believe it could be fairly cool.”