"The Funk Master" is staying put.
It was Sterling's desire to fight out his contract with the UFC and test his value on the open market. He did so in December and ended up back with the promotion he has competed in since 2014. Sterling said the UFC's winning offer was "more lucrative" than the original one he got, which was $20,000 to show and $20,000 to win.
"I'm 100 percent happy with my decision," Sterling said. "I think I got a better deal for myself than I would have had.
"I was a little bit uneasy about it at first. I just wasn't sure exactly what was gonna happen, because you never know where you're going to end up."
Sterling said that World Series of Fighting was next in the running, because of the money they offered. WSOF was about "neck and neck" with Bellator, he said.
The allure of the UFC and its position as the top organization in the world also didn't hurt.
"You cant really put a value on the UFC name," Sterling said. "That alone has value in itself. You go out there and say I fight for the UFC, people know exactly what that is. Ultimately, I think I made the right decision. I got some extra incentives in there. I'm happy with the decision I made."
Sterling (12-0) is one of the top bantamweights in the world and, at just 26 years old, has a high ceiling. The Long Island, N.Y., native trains at Serra-Longo with the likes of Chris Weidman and Al Iaquinta.
"We'll see who's going to be the opponent to get strangled next," Sterling said.
The goal in free agency, Sterling said, was to continue to earn money in the short window that MMA fighters have.
"I'm 26," he said. "I got a couple more years before I'm 30. I want to be in my prime making the big money, enough money to put away so I can do something.
"I don't want to be resentful to the sport. I want to be able to leave the sport on a high note."