EXCLUSIVE | Aljamain Sterling ready for bantamweight title shot: ‘How can I not be the next guy in line?’

Aljamain Sterling

With a vacant bantamweight title up for grab, Aljamain Sterling is calling for his chance. The “FunkMaster” is currently on a three-fight winning streak which has seen him beat the likes of Brett Johns, Cody Stamann, and Jimmie Rivera. Now that he finds himself at the top of the division, Sterling wants his chance at the UFC title.

While the UFC seems pretty set on making Marlon Moraes vs Henry Cejudo as the next bantamweight title fight, Sterling continues to push and call out for a title fight.

In an interview with BJPenn.com, Sterling discussed the controversy surrounding the vacant title, why he believes he’s next in line for the title, and more.

As the attention has gotten focused on the current UFC flyweight champion Henry Cejudo jumping up and fighting at bantamweight, Sterling says he has no issues welcoming him to the division, because there are weight classes for a reason.

“I’m down to fight him too, if he wants to come up to the big boy weight class, that’s on him,” he said. “I like to say there’s weight classes for a reason. If he’s really going to look at that TJ [Dillashaw] fight as a means to say he can come up to this weight class and compete with all of us, there’s a big difference with the 10 pounds. I’m not sure if his manager is doing the right thing by him in having him campaign to come up a weight class but, I’ll be happy to oblige to that. I’ll be his Huckleberry, either him or Marlon, I’m down to fight.”

Before his current three-fight winning streak, Sterling was on the wrong side of a knockout loss to Marlon Moraes, and he’s made it clear that he’d like to run that fight back with this former foe. While welcoming Cejudo to bantamweight and rematching Moraes are at the top of Aljamain Sterling’s list, more than anything, he wants to fight for the UFC world title.

“I don’t care about the opponent all too much, but to get that revenge against Marlon would be a huge thing to do, especially for a world title, you can’t write a better script than that,” he said. “That was one of the worst ways to lose in the UFC history, and for me to come back the way I’ve come back, a lot of guys would’ve quit, a lot of lesser men would’ve just pack it in and they wouldn’t ever fight the same.

“I’ve gone through so many different obstacles in my life, that was just a small bump in the road, that’s the way I kept things in perspective. I made a mistake, he capitalized on it, and took me out. Here I am today, I’ve beat three tough competitors, one was undefeated that was supposed to be the next big thing coming out of the UK., next guy was a D-2 wrestler talking a whole lot of s**t I shut his a** down, and the other guy was a guy who’s been talking s**t to me for the past six years, and we all seen how I dominated that fight, super one-sided. I’m coming into my own man, I’m ready to live up to those expectations that people expected from me a long time ago when I first signed to the organization.”

So why didn’t Sterling walk away after his highlight-reel loss to Marlon Moraes that saw him go viral on social media for all the wrong reasons? He got his biggest fear out of the way and he knew he’d grow from the loss rather than run from it.

“To lose like that, that was my biggest fear,” he said candidly. “So to get that out of the way, I was like alright, that’s the worst that can happen. I thank God that nothing happened like my nose didn’t get smashed. I could’ve had something like Rory MacDonald where I can’t compete the same. I always say you can only got like so many times you can get dinged before you have to stop fighting. Things could’ve been so much worse, I’m fortunate enough to be able to continue to do what I love and make a s**t ton of money doing it. I’m looking to ride this all the way to the top, I’m on that rainbow wave, and I see that pot of gold at the end of it, and that pot of gold is a big shiny UFC belt.”

Now that the division has seen former champions TJ Dillashaw, Cody Garbrandt, and Dominick Cruz step away from the top of the division for their individual reasons, bantamweight is open for business. After feeling clogged at the top for many years, Aljamain Sterling says he’s happy to be among one of the top in his division.

“100%, you had Cody Garbrandt, you had Dominick Cruz, you had [Urijah] Faber for a while, you had TJ Dillashaw, even Raphael Assuncao even though they didn’t give him his shot,” he said. “You had all these guys at the top kind of holding on and clogging up the division, but finally we got some clarity and a little bit of a shakeup. We got some new faces and some new contenders there, and I’m just happy to be one of them.”

Now that he feels he’s coming into his own and he’s at the place many others expected him to be at, Sterling says he continues to get better each fight, and that is only going to lead to more problems for the rest of the division.

“I came in primary a wrestler and Jiu-Jitsu player and my last fight, I got to shut these guys up talking about my stand-up game, and my last fight I think I out-struck him by double, nearly tripled him [in striking],” he said. “I think I’m really finding my groove and I think I’m only going to keep getting better. Every single fight I get better and that’s one thing I pride myself on, so, give me more time, it’s going to be the worse for these guys.”

The opportunities are there for Aljamain Sterling to stake his claim at the top of the bantamweight division, he just needs to be given the chance. So when it is all said and done, it doesn’t matter who the opponent is, Sterling just wants to fight for the UFC title.

“I want to fight for the UFC world title. Pedro Munhoz lost to John Dodson, who lost to Jimmie Rivera, who I just dominated so, how can I not be the next guy in line? Sign me up.”

He’s finally where he saw himself being when he joined the UFC and now, Aljamain Sterling is just awaiting his opportunity to fight for the UFC bantamweight title.

This article first appeared on BJPENN.COM on 3/27/2019.