Dana White and Aljamain Sterling just can’t get on the same page.
The UFC president gave an animated response on Tuesday when asked about Sterling’s latest comments regarding the saga of UFC 292.
“I’m not the one that went out and said, ‘If my body holds up,’ when I’m promoting a fight. If you’re not healthy, don’t take the fight,” White told FanSided.
“We’ll have somebody else fight, we’ll do somebody else for the interim title. Don’t say you’re going to go out and fight and then start saying stuff like, ‘If my [body holds up].’ What’s the first thing that happened? As soon as I was at the press conference, I was asked, ‘Is Aljamain Sterling really going to fight or not?’ Is that what you want the fans thinking? How is that me not giving him credit?”
White initially criticized Sterling this past Saturday at UFC Vegas 73’s post-fight press conference after the UFC announced Sterling’s upcoming bantamweight title defense on August 19 against Sean O’Malley without the champ having fully signed on to the bout. Sterling, who just defended his belt earlier this month in a five-round battle against Henry Cejudo, ultimately accepted the date against O’Malley but reiterated that he was dealing with lingering injuries from the Cejudo fight and needed to see how his body held up with the quick turnaround. UFC 292 will be Sterling’s fourth title fight over a 16-month span.
At Saturday’s press conference, White suggested that Sterling “is one of those guys who can’t get out of his own way.” Those comments drew a sharp rebuke from Sterling, who openly wondered on his podcast The Weekly Scraps why he couldn’t get White’s respect.
“You put me in this situation and you make it sound as if you want me to be the bad guy, tell me behind closed doors,” Sterling said. “I’ll play the character, but get me in on the joke. But not when you’re going to keep doing this stuff, making me look like a b****. Like, nah, bro, you’re not going to keep doing that to me, dog. Get the f*** out of here. Dana, get out of here with that. I’ve done everything the UFC has asked me to do — two partially torn biceps, went through two training camps like that, fought through them, beat Petr Yan, former champion; beat T.J. Dillashaw, former champion.
“Then you’ve got Henry Cejudo, ‘the greatest combat athlete of all-time’ — I beat this guy, also with a partially torn bicep tendon. I got stem cells. Every time they have asked me to fight, I put my nuts on the table and I showed out every single time and won. At what point do I get credit from the UFC, from Uncle Dana?
“What else could you possibly want from a champion who is active, competing, doing the stuff that you ask of him, promote the fight, and I’m out here in these streets working?” Sterling continued. “My thing with Dana is, damn, dog, why can’t you give credit where credit is due? Even if you feel I can’t get out my own way — which, there’s no context behind that, because I’ve literally done everything you have asked.
“Why is it so hard for Dana to go, ‘Absolutely, the fight is done, we spoke to him, this kid’s always shown up to the fights, always makes weight, always does the media stuff, we know he’s going to show up. Yeah, he just fought two weeks ago, he’s a little banged up but he gave us his word he’s going to show up for this fight, the kid’s a killer, the kid’s a stud.’”
Sterling has won nine consecutive fights, the most ever for a UFC bantamweight. He also holds the all-time records for most consecutive wins in UFC bantamweight history and the most consecutive bantamweight title defenses. With a win over O’Malley, Sterling will claim sole possession of the most total title defenses in UFC bantamweight history.
In response to Sterling on Tuesday, White dismissed the idea that he failed to give his promotion’s champion credit and again repeated his points from Saturday’s presser.
“That was a Saturday afternoon, I was home working out, minding my own business when my phone starts blowing up and Henry Cejudo is calling me, saying, ‘I’ll take the fight. I’ll take the fight,’” White said. “I’m like, ‘Why? Is Aljo out?’ He’s like, ‘Yeah, he’s already making excuses, saying if his body holds up and this other stuff. Just give me the fight, we’ll fight for the interim, blah, blah, blah, blah blah.’ Then I walk into the press conference and one of the first questions that asked to me is, ‘Is Aljamain still fighting?’
“How am I not giving him credit? Ridiculous.”