clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Aljamain Sterling is considering MMA layoff, going back to school due to lack of fights, pay

Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

Aljamain Sterling is supposed to fight in December at UFC on FOX 17. The problem is he doesn't have an opponent. And if he doesn't get one, the top bantamweight might just decide to go back to school to get his Master's degree.

Sterling is not happy these days. He has been asking for a fight with Bryan Caraway, but he said Caraway has turned down the bout. Caraway is ranked No. 7 among UFC bantamweight contenders, while Sterling is No. 6. No one else has stepped up to fight him Dec. 19 in Orlando, either.

If no foe signs a contract, the Long Island native will have a decision to make. The next college semester begins in January and he might enroll. Sterling plans on seeking his Master's in health. He has also been considering taking a full- or part-time teaching job at a nearby high school.

Either one of those things could mean Sterling will take a break from MMA.

"If they can't guarantee me something sooner, barring that I don't get injured, I'm gonna have to go back to school and just do what's best for me," Sterling told MMA Fighting. "If that includes taking a layoff, then I guess I've gotta take a layoff and actually do something positive with it."

Sterling echoed that statement Wednesday on his Instagram page.

Ain't that some ishh?? Working my butt off every time I go to practice with dreams of winning #UFC gold since I was a college student. Training and studying instead of partying. Not doing drugs and not chasing females around because I had one true goal. A burning desire to finally be the best in the world at something. Came up short for High School wrestling, and college wrestling. Now this "is my shot" is slowly starting to feel like this "was my shot." I'm a realist and in doing the math, I will not be able to have a financially stable future if things don't change. I teach my students to focus on what you can control and the only thing in my control right now is furthering my education and hoping I get my big break into MMA. This sport has so many ups and downs, it's highs and lows, and overall great experiences and perks of being a UFC fighter. With that said, it doesn't last forever and if you aren't at the top of the game in your division, count your blessings if you're able to retire with any money, and with your body and brain intact. Ultimately, this path was my choice and I have no regrets. Just things I'd like to do better and recommend others to do better than I did. At the end of the day. I love this game... #TeamFunk

A photo posted by Aljamain Sterling (@funkmaster_ufc) on

Sterling, 26, isn't happy that none of his fellow fighters will accept a fight with him and he's not in love with how much the UFC pays him, either. He has been outspoken in the past about the Reebok deal. Sterling said he has one fight left on his contract and he plans on hitting the open market afterward.

The undefeated "Funkmaster" is coming off a third-round submission of Takeya Mizugaki at UFC on FOX 15 in April. He's finished his last two UFC opponents and is now regarded as one of the best in the world at 135.

"These guys need to do right by me," Sterling said. "I fought a top-10 guy (Mizugaki) as an unranked opponent, came in, finished him in what I think was a spectacular fashion -- just the performance overall, shut the guy down. I think it warrants some attention and some notoriety."

Sterling, a Serra-Longo product and teammate of middleweight champion Chris Weidman, fears that his style -- very wrestling and grappling heavy -- can hold him back in the eyes of UFC brass. He completely dominated Mizugaki and then submitted him with a unique arm triangle choke from the side. But it wasn't a highlight-reel knockout and Sterling didn't win a fight-night bonus.

"To me, it was like a slap in the face," Sterling said. "I feel like my style is not what they think people want to see, which is going out there just swinging for the fences and hoping to get a knockdown. I felt like I did a beautiful display of jiu-jitsu and showed how strategically to break down somebody from the feet, control them and make them look like they never fought before."

If he doesn't get a fight before the end of the year, Sterling plans on competing in more jiu-jitsu tournaments and trying out for the Jamaican Olympic wrestling team. Then, he'll likely enroll in a nearby college like Hofstra. That, too, will require funds.

This was not the outlook when he started the year, but he has only had three fights since 2013.

"I thought this was my year," Sterling said. "I had my goals. I thought I was gonna break $100K in my savings. That was the end goal, the realistic goal. I thought it was very, very tangible.

"The pay is definitely not what it is unless you're the champ or a guy that's been around the sport for a very, very, very long time and you can make a lot of money."

Sterling is still hoping for that December fight, maybe against the returning Michael McDonald or Raphael Assuncao. But if not, he still has rent, payments on his car and student loans. Those are only going to pile up if he's not getting a paycheck for fighting.

"I still think I have a very promising future, but just doing the math on how much I fight, how often I fight per year, there's no way I'm gonna be able to make a significant amount of money where I can put it aside to do something when I'm done," Sterling said. ... "You kind of see where I'm doing the math that it's not adding up. I would have made more money taking a full-time teaching job somewhere."

Sign up for the newsletter Sign up for the MMA Fighting Daily Roundup newsletter!

A daily roundup of all your fighting news from MMA Fighting