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Aljamain Sterling wants UFC 205 at MSG to be ‘New Yorkers against the world’

Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

NEW YORK – Among the fighters in attendance to watch New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo official sign off on the bill to legalize MMA in the state on Thursday was Aljamain Sterling — the Long Island-based fighter who’s waited a long time for this day to come.

Sterling, who was among fellow New York-based fighters Chris Weidman, Ryan LaFlare, Dennis Bermudez and Chris Wade, was all smiles to be one step closer to competing at Madison Square Garden.

"This is a historic moment for sure, and I’m excited about it," he told MMA Fighting. "My whole thing is I can’t wait to inspire the next young fighters from my hometown. I got a bunch of kids who would like the opportunity just to able to dabble in a sport like this. It’s going to be a great opportunity not just for me but for everybody, great opportunities across the board."

As part of the historic day that capped a 10-year campaign by the UFC to get MMA legalized in the Empire State, UFC CEO Lorenzo Fertitta announced that the first event would be held at MSG on Nov. 12 – exactly 23 years from the first ever UFC, held in Denver back in 1993.

And the 26-year-old Sterling thought that the UFC should make what will be known as UFC 205 a showcase of New York talent.

"You know what I think they should do?" he said. "It should be like a New York against the world kind of thing. I think that would be awesome. I think that would be the dopest thing ever."

The UFC did something similar for its return to Brazil after a decade away at UFC 134 back in 2011. That card, which was headlined by Anderson Silva and Japan’s Yushin Okami, featured Brazilians against non-Brazilians in the bulk of the fights.

With so many New York and New Jersey based fighters -- many of whom have been active in the campaign to get MMA legalized for all these years -- Fertitta said Sterling’s idea isn’t out of the question.

"We’ll have to see," Fertitta said. "We’re going to give deference to the New York fighters. We obviously want to put guys like Chris Weidman and the rest of the guys who can help support us, whether it’s LaFlare or Bermudez and all these guys from Long Island and upstate New York. So we’ll see whether the New York crowd really gets behind them. I not sure it’ll be like Brazil, but maybe it’ll get a little extra out of the New Yorkers."

One of the fighters who could be vying for a title on Nov. 12 is Sterling himself, who has a fight lined up with Bryan Caraway at UFC Fight Night 88 on May 29. Should he beat Caraway, it’s not out of the question Sterling (12-0) could get the nod to face the winner between Urijah Faber and Dominick Cruz, who fight on June 4 at UFC 199.

"Hopefully I destroy Mr. Cupcake and I continue my quest for gold," Sterling said. "He’s just another guy in the way. I’m looking to shut him down and continue my campaign on why I should be the next guy in line. A lot of guys man, they are dull and dry. I’ve got personality. And I can actually fight. I think that combination alone sells."

One way or another, Sterling wants to be fighting at MSG in November, which he thinks will be the biggest event of the year.

"I think it’s definitely going to be bigger than UFC 200," he said. "The turnaround, even from UFC 200, maybe you will see a Conor McGregor on that card. Maybe you’ll see a GSP come out of retirement for that card. I’m excited to see what it is. The possibilities are endless. I have to be on that card. Hopefully it’s for a title shot, which would be absolutely huge. That would be colossal for me.

"I’m excited though, man. There’s no real words to explain actually being able to take the train over to Penn Station, hop off the train and be like, you know what, I’m ready to fight."

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