Aljamain Sterling has never lacked in confidence.
The charismatic bantamweight from Long Island has long been one of the most charismatic and flashy fighters in the 135 pounds. With an unrivaled fashion sense to go along with stellar mic work, the UFC’s resident “Funkmaster” has cemented himself as one the most popular scrappers on the roster.
Oh yeah, and he also happens to be one of the most talented pugilists on planet earth.
This was never more evident than in Sterling’s dominant performance against Pedro Munhoz at UFC 238 on Saturday. Showcasing stellar head movement, lightning quick striking and world class cardio, Sterling ran through Munhoz to push his win streak to four straight inside the Octagon.
So what’s next for Sterling?
“I think I posses all the talent in the world to compete with Henry,” Sterling told Luke Thomas during an appearance on The MMA Hour. “Henry is a tough dude, man. I think he is the pound-for-pound greatest combat athlete today. No one has done what he’s been able to accomplish. But, I will say this, when I beat him, ‘Henry Cedoodo,’ what does that make me? The pound-for-pound king. So that’s what I’m looking to get for my next title. So go out there, beat up Henry and I think I’ll be able to take that title.
“I’m too long, I’m too rangy, I can box, I can kick, I can wrestle, I can do jiu-jitsu. So where does he win? I like my chances in that one.”
But what sets Sterling apart from Cejudo’s past opponents? After all, the Olympic gold medalist as already locked horns with and defeated former pound-for-pound leader Demetrious Johnson and former bantamweight kingpin T.J. Dillashaw. What skills could Sterling possible posses that these giants of the sport lacked?
For Sterling, it’s all about “the funk.”
“I bring the funk,” Sterling said. “It’s a different style. Even when I teach my MMA classes in the gym, it’s hard to teach what I do. It’s more of state of flow, a state of feel. It’s not a robotic thing like one, two, three, kick, one, two, three, switch, jab, cross. It’s completely unorthodox. Everything is about rhythm, tempo and pace. It’s a different style, man. When you factor the wrestling, the scrambles, the jiu-jitsu, I think I’m a tough matchup in this division for anyone.”
As for Cejudo calling out former champions Dominick Cruz, Cody Garbrandt and Urijah Faber, as well as the entire featherweight division in his post-fight interview, Sterling recognizes exactly what his division’s champion is trying.
“Because he wants to be the ‘Legend Killer,’” Sterling laughed. “Oh my goodness, you want to fight guys who haven’t won a fight in god knows how long? I don’t know if he’s scared or — I can’t call him scared because he’s fought some of the baddest men in our weight class’ history. But to be calling out guys who haven’t won a fight in three years or guys coming out of retirement who are 40 when you’ve got young, hungry competitors who are well deserving of a shot, I think there’s something wrong with that.”
However, one scenario Sterling himself admitted to overlooking is the possibility of Cejudo dropping back down to flyweight to defend his other title. With the 125-pound division lacking a clear-cut number one contender, the bantamweight division may have to be put on hold while the flyweight’s battle for a crack at the champion.
Recognizing this, Sterling admits he’s just hoping his most recent win catapults him to the front of the queue.
“For some reason I always thought he’d have to defend his 135 title because he wouldn’t have to cut so much weight,” Sterling said. “But right now, I don’t there’s a clear number contender at 125. Maybe Joseph Benavidez? They fought already and he has a win over Henry. Maybe Jussier Formiga? But those guys are fighting each other. So, depending on the results of that, it’s going to be decided on what’s the more intriguing matchup. Hopefully it’s me. Hopefully they have a boring fight. That’s what I’m hoping for. I’m hoping I did enough to impress the UFC brass.”