CFFC 123: Kelvin Sterling on Return, Brother Aljo’s Title Loss, Lack of Rematch Talk

After posting a respectable amateur record, bantamweight Kelvin Sterling turned pro last year, and hit a couple of bumps in the road.

For one, his debut ended in a No Contest due to an accidental eye poke. Worse, he tore his lung, a result of Mallory-Weiss syndrome. In his return fight, Sterling admits that he didn’t feel himself. Thoughts of his health were still in his mind, and his performance suffered.

There’s a much different feel ahead of CFFC 123 this Friday, where Sterling looks for his first pro victory.

“I’m very good to go. Very much better than last time. Last time was like a sh*t, sh*tty performance,” Sterling told Cageside Press in a recent exclusive interview.

Lest you think Sterling is making excuses, he took full responsibility for the loss. “Honestly man, it was me, man. I was in like the worst shape of my life, a bad point of my life, kinda needed the money, thought I could go out there and wrestle the kid, he was young, thought I could just turn it into a wrestling match. But with work, with the weight cut, with training, everything was just not going well.”

Sterling also admitted that, come the day of the fight, he wanted out. “I honestly was trying to call out of the fight, and then my teammates were speaking to me, they were like ‘you’re already here, this guy trained and put in the work, and probably spent money and all those type of things, travelling, it would kind of ruin it for him too.’ But more so I was just in my head about my own health. Because I tore my lung before, so because of the weight cut and how everything was going, I was in my own head, and it felt my body wasn’t up to par.”

That, Sterling believes, is something you can see in the fight itself, against Keron Reed at CFFC 112. “Which you can see. If anyone knows me, you can see, from the get-go of that fight, I wasn’t myself. I think I threw one punch that fight.”

You’ve probably put together the name Sterling, and the fact that the weight class is bantamweight, and made the connection by now. Kelvin is the brother of Aljamain Sterling, who earlier this month was knocked out by Sean O’Malley, losing the UFC bantamweight championship in the process.

His brother’s reaction? “Honestly my reaction was, that ref sucked. I felt like he stopped the fight before Aljo could— that man is one of the toughest men I know. He would rather go out on his shield. I’m not taking anything away from Sean O’Malley, caught him with a good counter, but at the same time, Aljo got hit with about five or four clean strikes on the ground after he got dropped. Still was moving and kicking. Ref didn’t even stop the fight, and then as soon as he went turtle to get up, that’s when you stop the fight?”

That, said Kelvin, “doesn’t make sense to me. Especially after seeing Zhang [Weili] throw about 200 and something strikes to Amanda Lemos [one fight earlier], and they let it go on. Man, it just doesn’t make sense.”

The good news is, both Aljo and his brother are over it, and in a better place. Though Kelvin Sterling believes his brother deserves a rematch. “Given the rematch, we all know what’s going to happen, and they don’t even talk about it, which makes no sense. Four-time defending champ, nine [fight] win streak, how do you not even mention a rematch?”

As for his own fight, against the 2-1 Hunter Starner, Sterling says he’s telling himself he wants to go three rounds. “I’m not looking for a knockout, I’m not chasing a knockout, I just want to know I belong in there. I can last with anyone in there. And I want to go out there and dominate the three rounds. Hopefully that’s exactly how it goes. If I get out of there any sooner, then hopefully it’s on my end taking him out. And let’s do it, let’s bang, let’s see who’s the better man. I just want to show that I belong here.”

Watch our full interview with CFFC 123’s Kelvin Sterling above.