Bantamweight contender Aljamain Sterling is one funky SOB. The Funk Master has been a staple in the UFC bantamweight division since 2014. Now, he has the most important fight of his life at UFC 238. He faces Pedro Munhoz in what many think to be a number one contender fight for the winner of the main event between Henry Cejudo and Marlon Moraes.
The fight is huge for Aljamain. He knows what is at stake here. He’s ready to seize the moment.
“This is the big one. I can’t see who else would be in front of me, granted I get past Pedro.” You can see that respect he has for his opponent too with that, “granted I get passed Pedro” remark. He knows his opponent is tough and not to be taken lightly. Sterling is grateful for the opportunity anyway.
“I’m excited for the opportunity, man,” says Sterling. “He put on a great fight in his last few performances. His fight with Brett Johns was probably the best one I had to scout him. The Caraway fight, I think I’m a much better fighter than when Caraway first fought me. The Pedro fight is a couple years removed. The Cody Garbrandt fight was just a shoot out. I don’t fight like that. I fight much more intelligent. I think it’s going to be a different story when he gets in there with me.”
Aljamain was a Division III wrestler where he was a two time All-American. After transferring, he met Jon Jones at Morrisville State College and the two shacked up and Sterling’s love for MMA was cemented. “To be honest, I never thought I would be doing this until I met Jon Jones in college. We were both wrestlers and we had similar body types for our respective weight classes. I saw him doing it when I left SUNY-Cortland, we both went there, and I asked if I could come down and try it out. I came down and tried it out and haven’t looked back since.”
Sterling also spent some time at PFL’s second event in their second season. He was out supporting a couple friends and enjoyed his time at the promotion. “I was hanging out. I got to watch Andre Harrison and Chris Wade put some work in. I forgot Lance Palmer was fighting too. We’re not boys and all that, but I met his dad once or twice. So I got to watch all those guys fight.”
“It’s tough to say. Before, it used to be him. I think I’ve kind of earned my stripes now. I’ve pulled off some slick, funky submissions. I want to say I now take the crown from him.”
Turning back to his fight, Sterling believes it is his time to shine. “I’m grappling with bears every day. I got Matt Serra, I got all the guys. It’s going to be a different ball game when Pedro steps in there with me. I’m confident as ever, man.” It’s Sterling’s skills that he feels like he has an advantage over Pedro Munhoz. “I feel like this is another good fight for me, stylistically. I can’t see what he does besides try to lure me into a firefight or catch me in a guillotine, and I just can’t see that happening. I would have to be doing just not anything for him to catch me in something like that. I’m pretty much on auto pilot at this point when it comes to just those situations.”
Previously, Sterling said on Ariel Helwani’s show that he wanted Cody Garbrandt. While he would still like that fight one day, he says that fight is off the table after a win at UFC 238. “I beat Pedro, I’m not fighting Cody after that. That makes zero sense. I messaged Cody after Pedro and told him to keep his head up and whatnot. He’s so talented and he accomplished something that many of us wish we could have accomplished: becoming a UFC champion. One day I would still like to share the octagon with him and have our go at it.”
The Cards That Fell For UFC 238
Aljamain’s last loss was to the man fighting for the vacant title on the very same card as him. Marlon Moraes knocked out Sterling with a vicious head kick. He sees that as part of his story. “We will see who wins the fight on the 8th. I don’t care who wins to be honest I am chasing one thing, and that’s UFC gold. Weather it’s Marlon and I get my rematch, that’s a great little addition to everything. It will make everything a lot more rewarding. To go out there and avenge a loss AND win UFC gold, that’s a Cinderella story right there.”
That belt is vacant because of former champ, TJ Dillashaw, and his failed drug test. After his loss to Henry Cejudo in January, Dillashaw failed a competition drug test for EPO, a serious performance enhancing drug. “I’ve heard rumors for quite some time now. A couple years now. Where there is smoke there is fire. I never want to kick dirt on someone’s name, especially when things haven’t come to light. I’m not just talking stuff that I don’t know for a fact, but USADA knows.”
Sterling made his pick on the main event. One thing is for sure, if he’s victorious, he intends to take on the winner. He also has a great nickname for Cejudo. “Henry Ce-doo-doo, he’s tough. He’s got good wrestling. It seems like he’s got better at using the ground and pound. Marlon is a heavy striker, he’s the bigger man. I think if Ce-doo-doo can get him down it will make things interesting to see if Marlon will gas out. We haven’t seen Marlon in the later rounds, which would be interesting. He’s more methodical. He takes his time a lot more. I can’t see him getting caught like TJ did, although he was on EPO, so that’s my take on it. I don’t know who is going to win it, but I’ll be there watching.”
Check out the podcast episode here!
Thanks for reading and thank you to Aljamain Sterling for the interview!