Following his one-sided win over previously undefeated Welshman Brett Johns, Sterling called for a showdown with the former 135-pound king.
According to “Funk Master”, he thinks he might be a more appealing bout to Cruz than some of the other opposition at present.
“He’s a guy I’ve been looking up to for a very long time,” Sterling told Ariel Helwani on the latest episode of The MMA Hour. “With this fight, I think he’s going to look at it like there’s no real risk for him. It’s not like a Cody Garbrandt, where he could potentially get knocked out or a submission specialist, I guess. He doesn’t think he’ll get submitted with his grappling.
“In his mind, he’ll think it’s a safe fight, that he can take that fight, stay in the mix and beat another guy that’s in the top 10 and solidify why [he] should be the next guy to get a shot, even over the winners of (Jimmie) Rivera and (Marlon) Moraes. I think I can lure him in that way.
“He’s the only one that isn’t booked for a fight. If I can do my best Nick Diaz impersonation, how does it go, ‘I don’t think Dominick Cruz is hurt, I think he’s running scared — where you at Cruz!’” said Sterling, mimicking Diaz’s callout of Georges St-Pierre.
Sterling outlined the differences between preparing for Cruz and preparing for Johns.
“At the end of the day, I know what I bring to the table,” Sterling said. “I know it’s different preparing for him. He’s not a grappler like Brett Johns. I had to respect his grappling game, I couldn’t just rush into takedowns. I knew he had more tricks than the typical grappler and I knew that Brett is willing to take chances in those high-risk situations. He actually tried to set up that rolling calf slicer at one point and I was like, ‘Dude, there’s no way you’re going to hit that on me.’ I’m not silly enough to sit there and watch you work, I’m going to counter your counter.”
Sterling knows Cruz could be in danger of being inactive for over a year if he passes up an opportunity to fight him.
“I think Cruz would be more willing to oblige in a fight with me over a Garbrandt. Garbrandt is now getting the next title shot, (Raphael) Assuncao is fighting Rob Font, Jimmie Rivera is fighting Marlon Moraes and I think that’s it,” he said.
“So what are you going to do? Sit behind a desk for the next six months? It doesn’t make sense. It might even be a year for him because [Dillashaw and Garbrandt] are fighting in August, so they might not fight again for the rest of the year. What are you going to do after that, wait until 2019?
“The time is right. It’s time for idols to become rivals. I think I’m ready for this challenge. I haven’t beaten a top-five guy yet and I think this is the perfect opportunity for me to finally put one of those feathers in my cap.”