At UFC 280, Sterling successfully defended his bantamweight title, stopping former two-time champion T.J. Dillashaw in the second round of their co-main event fight. Afterward, the champion dug into his bag of schoolyard insults in his post-fight interview, saying he’d welcome a fight against “Henry Ce-Doo Doo,” “Sugart***” Sean O’Malley, or “Marlon Cheetos Doritos Vera.” The comments were not Sterling’s finest promotional work and rubbed some people the wrong way. But for Vera, they weren’t entirely unexpected.
“I know, but the guy’s a kook,” Vera told Ariel Helwani on The MMA Hour. “He has no friends, always walks alone. The guy has no personality. But it is what it is. ... When you have no personality you have to do something like that. You just can’t crack a joke for your own self and then, again, he got the belt and sounds out. That’s the sad part about the guy. You got the belt! Put it like that.
“Look at how OK with myself that I am, how happy and confident I am. I’m not even the No. 1 contender. I don’t even have a No. 1 next to me, I don’t have the belt, it’s just because you’re in a good place in life. Maybe the guy’s not.”
If Sterling does lack confidence, it may be because of the controversial nature of his title run. He became the first person in history to win a UFC title by disqualification in his first fight against Petr Yan. Then after taking home a split decision in their rematch one year later, UFC President Dana White almost immediately said the judges “blew that one.” Then his defense against Dillashaw was marred by Dillashaw entering the bout with a severe pre-existing injury.
Still, Vera said no one should take any credit away from Sterling for his most recent win.
“It was a great fight,” Vera said. “Nothing taken away from Aljamain. He won fair and square. T.J. came injured, but he came to fight. If he were to pull it off he would be a hero right now, but s*** happens. His shoulder came out and sad for him, but the champion kept the belt and good for him. ...
“Aljamain won the belt, fair and square. If your shoulder came out, if your nose came out, if your hair came out, who the f*** cares? He won the fight, period.”
Winning is the most important thing, and Sterling’s may have set up a fight between he and Vera that has some surprising heat on it. The two top bantamweights recently have developed a contentious relationship, and with Sterling calling him out several times since his title defense, Vera hopes to finally get the chance to settle up.
“He called me out right after the fight,” Vera said. “Just put it like that, he was talking mad s*** about T.J., right? About EPO and drugs and blah, blah, blah, and then after the fight he’s like, ‘I respect you,’ and almost like sucking his d***, so who are you? Either you’re real, you’re a mean guy, or you’re nice. Just pick a side, you know? I just keep it real. I say my thoughts about you, I say what I want to do to you, but after the fight I’m not trying to best friend, but I’m also not putting you down. Win, lose, or draw. You can see it since the beginning of my career. I just keep it real. ...
“The guy called me out, the guy tweeted out me directly on Saturday night, it’s going to be hard to forget. He’s a weird guy. He has no personality, he’s dry as tomato, can’t crack a joke, so he’s probably trying to be too cool for his own — but again, I don’t give a f***. If we see each other one day, I’ll make sure he will remember.”
But just because he thinks he has to goods to unseat the champion, don’t for one second believe that Vera is underestimating Sterling. Because even though Vera may not think much of his personality, “Chito” knows that “The Funk Master” is a very dangerous opponent.
“He’s got the belt, it’s a simple as that,” Vera said. “He’s big for the division, he’s got good grappling. A lot of people talk s*** about his striking, but the guy is still throwing everything he has. He throws a lot of kicks, he throws all that kind of s***. His striking’s probably not what Adesanya brings to the table, but he definitely can strike. So I think that’s why people sometimes sleep on people like that because they sometimes look goofy and s***, but they’re still trying to kick your head off. ... I know most of these guys are dangerous, if not all of them. So I’ll be ready for him or whoever else comes my way. But if you ask me, I can guarantee I’ll be the UFC bantamweight champion. Anytime. This year, next year, whenever the UFC wants to make it.”