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Johnny Eduardo: 'Scared' Aljamain Sterling 'never fought someone at my caliber'

Joe Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

Aljamain Sterling was seven years old when Johnny Eduardo made his Vale Tudo debut in Brazil. Nineteen years later, they will collide at UFC Fight Night 80 in Las Vegas, and the Brazilian plans to humble the bantamweight prospect on Dec. 10.

Sterling called out Eduardo for the first time back in June, promising to retire the Nova Uniao fighter from the sport. The Brazilian veteran, who hasn’t fought since a devastating knockout victory over Eddie Wineland in 2014, isn’t bothered by his opponent’s pre-fight talk.

"It’s just the opposite. He’s a frustrated man who tries to rise overnight, and that’s not how things work in the fight business," Eduardo told "There’s a thing called respect, and you have to respect those who entered many battles. He’s trying to get in my head but he’s using the wrong strategy. He’s scared. He never fought someone at my caliber, someone with my intelligence, my power, my experience, and that’s why he’s trying to get inside my head. I can smell his fear."

Eduardo, who made his MMA debut in 1996, enters UFN 80 with a 27-9 record with 20 finishes, while the Serra-Longo Fight Team product holds an 11-0 record with seven stoppage victories.

"He called me out in a negative way, trying to humiliate me and my team, talking trash about Brazil, but he’s just a kid," Eduardo said. "He’s just a kid. He’s just starting, and has a lot of things to learn. I fight professionally since he bought his first Playboy to jerk off in the bathroom, so this type of game, this trash talk, means nothing to me.

"I want to put on a show on December 10 not only for him, but for all the fans at the arena. I’m working hard. I won’t let this trash talk get inside my head. I’ll go there and do my job the same way I always did. I’ll do my best. Let him spend his energy talking. Let him talk."

Aware of the challenges Sterling will bring to the table on Dec. 10, Eduardo admits "Funk Master" isn’t only talk.

"He has a good wrestling, he’s tough, and has an unorthodox striking that forces his opponents to enter first," Eduardo said. "He doesn’t go forward all the time, he has a different strategy, but I’ve fought many guys like him before, and I'm thankful for the opportunity to go there and fight."

Fighting for the first time in 19 months after being sidelined with a shoulder injury, Eduardo is happy to be facing a top prospect in his return.

"The UFC is looking at me with different eyes now, giving me a ranked, rising prospect," he said. "I’m happy with this opportunity, happy to be back, and be able to do a great camp. They didn’t give me a nobody, they gave me a tough challenge, and that’s what I want. Those kinds of challenges make me happy."

And even though he wasn’t competing inside the Octagon, Eduardo wasn’t away from the fights. Sparring with the likes of Jose Aldo, Renan Barao and Eduardo Dantas every day in Rio de Janeiro got him in shape even when he wasn’t allowed to compete, he says.

"It’s even worse because it’s a daily fight against excellent athletes," he said with a laugh. "Since my fight with Wineland, I helped Barao, Aldo, ‘Dudu’, Marlon Sandro, Felipe Olivieri, and a lot more. I’ve been training and sparring with top fighters every day."

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