clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Marlon Moraes: Aljamain Sterling ‘deserves way more respect’ from fans as UFC champ, but lacks charisma

UFC Fight Night: Moraes v Sterling
Marlon Moraes fought Aljamain Sterling in Fresno, Calif.
Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

Aljamain Sterling hasn’t lost in over five years, a run that includes wins over the likes of T.J. Dillashaw, Petr Yan and Cory Sandhagen, but he still seems to struggle when it comes to fan recognition as the best bantamweight on the planet.

For Marlon Moraes, the last man to beat him inside the octagon, it might come down to charisma.

Sterling lost to Moraes in brutal fashion in 2017, but rebounded with a decision over Brett Johns shortly after. He was back in the cage later that year to stop Cody Stamann with a kneebar and then defeat Jimmie Rivera and Pedro Munhoz back-to-back in 2019 to put himself in a No. 1 contender clash with Sandhagen.

“Funk Master” made it look easy with a first-round rear-naked choke over Sandhagen, but the manner in which he later claimed the bantamweight belt, a disqualification win over Yan, turned a lot of fans against him. Sterling rematched and beat the former champion a year later, then went on to stop Dillashaw this past October, and now returns for his third bout in a span of 13 months against Henry Cejudo at UFC 288, which goes down Saturday in Newark, N.J.

“I think that’s about charisma,” Moraes said on Trocação Franca of Sterling’s struggle with stardom despite his long list of UFC wins. “He’s a nice guy, a great professional, but I think you need unique charisma to conquer fans, not only be good at what you do. He’s a complete guy.

“To bounce back from that loss against me, the way the knockout happened, is impressive. I met him recently and congratulated him for his career and everything he’s achieving. I told him he deserves way more respect from everybody.”

Sterling has a tough challenge ahead at UFC 288, facing a former two-division champion, and Moraes favors him in a close match.

“I think it all depends on who can impose their game better,” Moraes said. “Cejudo knows he can’t let Sterling in a long distance. He needs to close in and go for it. Push the pace and grapple, otherwise Sterling will score points from the outside. Sterling is much taller than Cejudo, work and well with his elbows and knees, so it can be dangerous if Henry shoots for a takedown and gets stuck.”

Moraes challenged for the vacant UFC title in 2019, right after scoring a trio of first-round finishes over Sterling, Rivera and Raphael Assuncao, and was close to beating Cejudo for the throne before the former Olympian came back to stop him in the third.

“If I had to bet, I’d bet on Sterling, but Cejudo is a super athlete,” said Moraes, who now fights for the Professional Fighters League. “I had the opportunity to be in the cage with [Cejudo] and he really has a lot of pressure, has an unique fighting IQ not only in MMA, but in all combat sports, so we can’t doubt that guy. It’s a tough fight, it’s very hard to pick.”

Sign up for the newsletter Sign up for the MMA Fighting Daily Roundup newsletter!

A daily roundup of all your fighting news from MMA Fighting