Viewers watching last weekend’s fights were probably wondering if Sterling’s first career loss by KO had sent him spiraling into another dimension as the UFC broadcast gave little information on the bantamweight’s health following the scary finish. Nine days later, Sterling was in good spirits during an appearance on The MMA Hour and having reviewed the footage multiple times himself, he sees how the situation could have been handled better by officials.
“I enjoy being a part of the UFC, of course, but I definitely think they could have done a lot better with updating the fans and everybody else,” Sterling said. “Especially, we have loved ones back home, so I had people trying to call me, trying to reach me, they couldn’t get in touch with me, obviously I was still delirious, delusional. Had no service, so the least they could have done was get a follow-up report and get something out for the press or something at least for the people who are actively checking and wanted to really know, who are actually really concerned about how I was doing, and to actually have some piece of mind and to know what was going on.
“Not for nothing, I’ve been getting along a lot better with Sean Shelby and even Dana White himself, obviously it’s a business relationship so I don’t expect these guys to be my friends or my best friends, I don’t look at it like that. But at least a text message to say, ‘Just checking to see if you’re doing OK. Making sure you’re alive.’ I think that’s common courtesy. I’m technically one of your employees, no matter if you want to call it self-employed, I’m still one of your employees. If you were my boss and I didn’t like you, I’m still going to check on your well-being, that’s just how I am, but from a human being standpoint I think that would have been a cool thing to wake up to.”
Sterling had to be stretchered out of the Octagon, and his brother later told him that he was in and out of consciousness afterwards, repeatedly asking “what happened?” It wasn’t until Sterling became angry with his question being ignored that his brother knew the fighter was alright.
In the cage, Moraes could be seen visibly showing concern for his off-camera opponent, and it’s that kind of compassion that Sterling hopes to see more of when it comes to the UFC and its athletes.
“It was kind of a letdown,” Sterling said of officials not checking in on him. “I almost wanted to text them sarcastically and be like, ‘Hey, just to let you guys know, I’m alive.’ But like I said, it’s a business relationship, I know what I signed up for, I don’t expect these guys to be my friends, I just thought they would have had a little bit more human decency to do something like that.
“And I’m not trying to put them in any position, I just think for the future, not just saying ‘woe is me’, but for other fighters it would go a long way in terms of the fighters’ minds and how we perceive our bosses. It makes it seem like they actually give a s**t, that’s all I’m saying.”
Prior to the finish, Sterling recalled everything about the night up until Moraes’s knee hit his chin. He remembered shooting in at the exact wrong moment - an action that turned a seemingly innocuous low kick into a frightening KO - and then after that he had to check the tapes to see what everyone was so concerned about.
“Just watching it over and over, I watched the way I landed, I was like, ‘Jesus Christ, that looks so bad,’ Sterling said. “I really felt for my friends and family that were back home looking at it and thinking, like, if I was alright, because it looks like I freaking died in there, man… There’s not much I can say. You just take your hits on the chin and move on, that’s life. I’ve been knocked down a few times in my life and it’s nothing different. It just sucks that it happens your first time on the main card in your ninth UFC appearance and you get freaking put down in 67 seconds. It was just unreal.”
Sterling was issued an indefinite medical suspension with 30 days no contact and he plans to take a short amount of time off to rest his body after fighting four times in 2017.