Making his home in one of the UFC’s most exciting divisions at the moment, Aljamain Sterling knows there are opportunities aplenty.
Atlantic City, NJ — Aljamain Sterling feels his loss to Marlon Moraes was a missed opportunity. Still, adopting the “everything happens for a reason” mindset, Sterling is moving on, and is focused on his opponent this weekend at UFC Atlantic City, Brett Johns. Johns shocked MMA fans when he pulled off a calf slicer at the TUF 26 Finale in December against Joe Soto. Yet the undefeated Johns is more of an everyman than specialist, as Sterling sees it.
When asked what he needs to watch out for from his opponent, Sterling told Cageside Press at Thursday’s UFC Atlantic City media day that “honestly, I guess I gotta watch out for everything. There’s not much I can particularly say ‘this is what this guy does super well.'”
Considering his soon-to-be dance partner, Sterling added that “If anything, he seems like he knows how to stifle you on top, if he gets you down in the guard position. But a lot of guys he’s fought don’t know how to use jiu-jitsu to get back up to their feet, or they don’t know how to just give up your back, stand up, get your butt to the cage and defend from there.”
It’s a sloppy approach, from Sterling’s standpoint. “If you’re laying down there and you’re trying to throw punches off your back,” he said, “that’s a silly way of trying to get the fight back standing. Or just trying to hold on. You’re just going to tire yourself out. A lot of these guys, I think their approach was wrong.”
The difference for Sterling is that “I think I’m a little more seasoned, and I have a lot more knowledge in the toolbox in regards to those type of situations. I’ve made sure I left no stones unturned. So I’m prepared, man. A lot of guys have a hard time holding me down, and that’s when I’m cutting weight.”
“When I’m strong and I feel good — it’s going to be a good night for me,” he predicted. “I’m super ecstatic about this one. I really do predict I’m going to stop him with strikes.”
And was Sterling at all surprised by the UFC booking a rematch between champ T.J. Dillashaw and Cody Garabrandt? That booking came after months of flirtation with a super fight between Dillashaw and flyweight/pound-for-pound king Demetrious ‘Mighty Mouse’ Johnson.
“Kinda sorta,” Sterling answered. “I was thinking somebody would have jumped in there. I was maybe thinking Jimmie Rivera. And if I had beat Marlon, maybe that could have been me! It kinda sucks, I guess everything happens for a reason. I’ve kinda got to just regroup, rebound, and just rebuild.”
“This division is exciting,” he boasted. “I think this is one of the most, if not the most, exciting divisions at this time.” For a few simple reasons, Sterling went on to add. “We have a clear cut champion,” he said. “There’s not a whole logjam of crap going on in the background. We know who the next potential contenders are. We know who is kind of fighting to solidify themselves as the next potential contenders.”
“It’s a great time to be in the bantamweight division,” Sterling estimated, “and I’ve got to make sure that I keep my name in the mix. Everything starts with Saturday. I’ve gotta to go out there, I gotta get it done. I know Brett’s going to bring a hell of a pace, and I’m willing to match the guy.”
“He’s gonna have to finish me to get me outta there, because there’s not gonna be any quit.”
Aljamain Sterling faces Brett Johns at UFC Atlantic City (UFC Fight Night 128) this Saturday at the Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, NJ. The bout airs live on Fox Sports 1 as part of the main card. Catch the full press scrum with Aljamain Sterling above!