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Brett Johns expects ‘hungrier and stronger’ Aljamain Sterling following brutal KO loss

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Brett Johns
Brett Johns faces Alajamin Sterling on April 21.
Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

Brett Johns’ path to the top of the UFC’s bantamweight division became a lot clearer after his sublime first-round calf slicer finish of Joe Soto at The Ultimate Fighter 26 Finale in December.

For his spectacular finish of Soto, the undefeated Welshman has been rewarded with another step up in opposition, this time against Aljamain Sterling.

Ever since the UFC Atlantic City contest was announced, Johns has been told that it’s “a good time” to take on Sterling due to the brutal knockout the American suffered in his last fight against Marlon Moraes. However, “The Pikey” doesn’t necessarily agree with that.

“That didn’t come into my head at all,” Johns told MMA Fighting. “We knew he lost his last fight, but in my opinion Aljamain represents the next step up for me in terms of challenges in the division.

“I don’t expect anything less from him because of that loss. In fact, I think he’ll be even better because of it. Honestly, I think after getting back to the gym and working up to this fight, I think he’ll be hungrier and stronger than ever.

“I certainly want to fight the best version of him,” Johns added. “Some people will probably say things about him coming off that loss, but I really am expecting the best version of Aljamain Sterling.”

While Johns viewed Soto as a ground specialist, he sees Sterling as more of a well-rounded challenge. After showcasing his submission arsenal in December, he wants to make a special effort to keep the fight standing this time around.

“He’s way more of an all-rounder,” Johns said of Sterling. “He’s not afraid to stand and he has really strong wrestling too. I think he will be looking to grapple, and to be honest, I’ve focused a lot on trying not to be the guy that initiates the grappling in this fight.

“His striking is very unorthodox though, it’s really hard to predict what’s coming next. For that reason, I’ve been working a lot on my boxing and kicking defense in the gym. It’s no secret that he’s a good wrestler, but I’m a good wrestler too. If the fight goes to the floor, so be it, but I’m not going to be trying to get it down there,” he said.

Johns feels as though he’s closing in on the UFC’s bantamweight title, and should he get through “Aljo,” he has someone in mind for his next assignment.

“I believe I can be the bantamweight champion within a couple of fights,” he said.

“I honestly wouldn’t say that if I didn’t think it was possible. I’ve got a plan in my head and I know who I want to call out next if I get the win over Aljo. I don’t want to jinx it by saying the name before the fight, I know I’ve got a very tough test on my hands.

“But don’t get me wrong, the title has been the goal since day one. I started off in this game with the goal of being a UFC champion. Along the way you give yourself little goals, but now I’m getting very close. This is a fairy tale story and it keeps getting better and better. I’ve got massive plans and I’ve got some big names that I need to call out to get to where I want to go.”