Aljamain Sterling says his next opponent has been secured.
The reigning UFC bantamweight champion announced on his podcast Thursday that he expects Henry Cejudo to get the next shot at his belt with hopes that they’ll meet in the first quarter of 2023. Cejudo’s manager Ali Abdelaziz previously told MMA Fighting that the fight was already a “done deal” after the UFC promised that matchup was going to happen.
Because contracts haven’t been issued or signed, Sterling won’t classify the fight as official, but he fully expects Cejudo to serve as his next title defense.
“I’m announcing that I am going to fight Henry next,” Sterling said. “We are targeting March. I will say Ali, brother, it’s done but it’s still not done until there’s ink on the paper but it’s done. But it’s still kind of not done but this is the fight that’s going to happen next.
“This fight is going to happen. Obviously, you guys saw the face off with myself and Henry Cejudo. I have no problem fighting Henry. Never ducked anybody a day in my life. The UFC gives me the toughest competition and I always step up to the plate and I always win, except for that one time when I got sent to Neptune against Marlon Moraes. For the most part, I typically win.”
The faceoff in question took place at the 2022 PFL Championship card in New York this past Friday where both Sterling and Cejudo were in attendance.
The impromptu showdown was ultimately friendly enough, although Sterling said that Cejudo still took the whole thing a little too seriously when it appeared both were just having fun with the opportunity to hype up a potential fight.
“When we did the face off and he started to scream, I was like come on dude,” Sterling said. “This was cool until you did that. Why do you have to ruin the moment, bro? Why can’t you just be cool and be like calm? Do you have to scream and make a scene and make things awkward and I’m just looking at you and people are looking at you, like all right we just look like a couple of strange weirdos right now in this crowd.
“I get why they call you cringy because that was just super unnecessary. You did not have to do that.”
Ultimately, it seems that the UFC is opting for Cejudo to get the shot instead as he returns from retirement, which came after he surrendered both the bantamweight and flyweight titles in 2020 following a brief reign as a two-division champion.
“I like the matchup,” Sterling said. “I think it’s going to be a fun fight for the fans. I think, on paper, it will be more competitive, even though I think skill wise I think [Sean] O’Malley possesses more of a threat of fight ending KO, if that makes sense. Henry can win the fight but I don’t think he wins by finish. I just can’t see myself losing to Henry by finish.
“That’s always possible but I just don’t see how Henry can find a shot that can put me out unless I ran face first into his knee like I did against Marlon Moraes, which knock on wood, I don’t think that’s going to happen again.”