Aljamain Sterling’s experience with the rapid title turnover and favored adversaries in UFC is nothing out of the ordinary, rendering his UFC 292 main event against Sean O’Malley as familiar territory.
Sterling asserts that his long-time promoter has gone to great lengths to impede his ascent to the pinnacle of UFC, even as he gears up to headline his second UFC pay-per-view in a span of three months.
The headlining event on Aug. 19 is not merely a hasty segue into Sterling’s subsequent bout. From his perspective, it presents an opportunity to discredit his staunchest skeptics by dominating an opponent who, he believes, has been the recipient of preferential treatment.
“I observe his performance against these guys,” Sterling remarked on Jake Paul’s “B.S.” video podcast on Thursday. “He competes against fighters who stand still, right in his path. He bides his time, lets them choose their moves, and then selects his own and delivers superior blows. I’m thinking, when he faces an adversary genuinely trying to grapple with him, it’s an entirely different match… Introduce a contender with proficient footwork, and the fight changes significantly.
“Scenarios like these irk me, and it’s not his doing. I sometimes feel like the UFC is akin to my father figure. I perceive them as my dad, where I feel a compulsion to validate something to him, as if to say, ‘Oh yeah, you hold this belief, I’m about to prove you wrong,’ that’s my motivation.”
Sterling has so far accomplished just that. He set a record in June for most consecutive bantamweight title defenses at 3, with a narrow victory over former two-division UFC champion Henry Cejudo at UFC 288. Many anticipated Cejudo’s wrestling skills would overpower the 33-year-old champion. Instead, Sterling matched Cejudo’s energy and outperformed the Olympic gold medalist.
Sterling attributes the mental resilience needed to attain such milestones, in part, to a challenging childhood. He recounted his father as a largely absentee figure, a “street pharmacist” who subjected him to repetitive abuse, assaulting him with makeshift household objects. He mentioned one incident where a blow to the head resulted in a persisting ringing sound that he can still recall.
Several of Sterling’s octagon rivals have irked him, notably former champion Petr Yan, whom he defeated by disqualification to secure the bantamweight belt (later defended it with a win over the Russian ex-champ). O’Malley, however, has fuelled his ambition to triumph even further.
“I sensed that the UFC had their bets placed on him as this golden goose set to lay a bounty of golden eggs for them,” Sterling commented. “And I wondered, ‘Dude, he’s not as exceptional as you guys imagine.’”
O’Malley overcame Yan last October, paving the way for a shot at the title. A confrontation with Sterling in the octagon after UFC 288 nearly triggered a brawl when Sterling’s ally, bantamweight Merab Dvalishvili, seized his jacket.
O’Malley’s fame has earned him recurring appearances on the UFC pay-per-view main cards. Sterling is determined to demonstrate that popularity does not equate to talent.
“This is my drive,” he asserted. “This fuels my daily routine and propels me into the gym, pushing the limits. I engage in exhaustive training sessions – often eight rounds. I prepare for this level of combat when I step into these fights. I come fully prepared, while he resorts to some far-out hippie breathing exercise with a balloon.”
O’Malley has been seen using a balloon-like device alleged to aid athletes in enhancing their breath control during performance. Sterling scoffed at the contraption, claiming to rely on the traditional tenacity of a trained wrestler.
“Want to know my training regimen? I’m engaged in another rigorous grappling round,” he exclaimed. “This is real stuff. As for his method, I can’t help but wonder what on earth he’s doing.”
As the Aug. 19 event in Boston approaches, Sterling has emerged as a -375 favorite to retain his title. O’Malley trails as a +200 underdog in most betting lines.
Check out the complete interview with Sterling below.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Aljamain Sterling’s UFC Relationship
Who is Aljamain Sterling’s opponent for the UFC 292 headliner?
Sterling’s opponent for the UFC 292 headliner is Sean O’Malley.
What is Sterling’s take on Sean O’Malley’s training methods?
Sterling has ridiculed O’Malley’s training methods, particularly his use of a balloon-like device for breathing exercises, favoring his own approach of rigorous grappling rounds.
How does Sterling describe his relationship with the UFC?
Sterling equates his relationship with the UFC to having an estranged father figure, implying that he feels the need to constantly prove himself to the organization.
How has Sterling been performing in recent UFC matches?
Sterling has been performing exceptionally. In June, he broke the record for most consecutive bantamweight title defenses with a split call victory over former two-division UFC champ Henry Cejudo.
What does Sterling say about his upbringing?
Sterling attributes his mental toughness to a difficult upbringing, with his largely absentee father who was involved in illegal activities and frequently abused him.
What is Sterling’s view on O’Malley’s standing in the UFC?
Sterling believes that O’Malley has been given preferential treatment in the UFC, and is determined to show that O’Malley’s popularity does not equate to talent.