After a masterful performance against the previously undefeated Brett Johns in April this year, Aljamain Sterling (15-3 MMA, 7-3 UFC) finds himself in much the same situation as he prepares for another lower-ranked fighter with a faultless record in the UFC so far.
“The Funk Master” will battle Cody Stamann (17-1 MMA, 3-0 UFC) in a bantamweight fight on the preliminary card of UFC 228 on September 8.
As Sterling nears the end of the eight-fight contract he signed in February 2016, the UFC’s decision to schedule him against Stamann has left the 29-year-old confused.
“This is not the fight that I wanted,” Aljamain Sterling explained on a recent episode of The Body Lock Podcast.
“People seem to think that I wanted this fight. I have no desire to fight this kid whatsoever at this time in his career, and right now especially in my career. I was looking forward to bigger and better fish to really cement my run back at the title. But you know, it what it is. I have to do what the bosses say.”
“This is the fight that they wanted [the UFC]. They say this fight makes sense, in some odd universe. I guess because he is ranked #10 or #11. I fought a guy who was undefeated, and he at least had a finish; his victories were at least dominant and one-sided. And now I am fighting a guy who had two split decision wins, and he beat Terrion Ware. Is this bizarro land? I don’t get it. I don’t get this matchup, I really don’t.”
Sterling is not the only one who is disinterested in the matchup. In an MMA Junkie Daily Debate poll in May, 54% of 526 voters voted that they were not interested in seeing Sterling vs. Stamann.
— MMAjunkie (@MMAjunkie) May 3, 2018
Hunting Dominick Cruz
At the time of that poll, Aljamain Sterling was actively campaigning for a fight with Dominick Cruz, who has been sidelined since December 2016.
“I wasn’t surprised that he didn’t take the fight,” Sterling explained.
“I figured that he would want to fight and stay busy. But I think Cruz knows that it’s not a safe fight. It’s a lose-lose for him. If he wins, he was supposed to win, at least in the fans eyes of the fans and the rankings standpoint. And if he loses, it’s an upset, and it’s a lot of upside for me.”
“A smart man wouldn’t have taken that fight and I think he knows it was a dangerous fight as well. If he doesn’t fight Marlon, maybe after this. I’m here to fight the best guys in the division, for sure.”
Sterling’s call-out wasn’t an all-in push; several other highly ranked bantamweight contenders were available, as well. One of those, in particular, was John Dodson.
“After his [Dodson] last win over Pedro Munhoz and then my last win, I thought that fight made sense. Either him, Jimmie Rivera, or Cruz, those are the guys I wanted or Lineker. I didn’t get any of those guys, though.”
Aljamain Sterling is unimpressed by Cody Stamann
As Aljamain Sterling campaigned for a fight with Cruz on Twitter, Cody Stamann hit the reply button and the two engaged in some back-and-forth.
— Cody Stamann (@CodyStamann) May 1, 2018
“There’s no animosity, at least on my side. At the end of the day, this is just a fight for me. I couldn’t care less about the guy. I understand him wanting to get a bigger fight, and a bigger name, kind of thing, but it gets to the point where it’s not really deserved or warranted whatsoever.”
“You have done nothing impressive in your last three outings. So, to go out and start pretty much screaming out ‘oh, I beat Caraway,’ I’m like dude, you really think you beat Caraway? I saw your face at the end of that fight. You thought you lost. Your coaches thought you lost. I’m pretty sure you don’t believe in yourself as much as you play it off to be.”
“And I’m not saying Cody Stamann is a bad fighter, he’s a tough dude and he knows how to squeak out wins. But at the end of the day, his victories are not impressive whatsoever. You’re about to get your arm ripped off and sent back to Vegas. I think there’s a big problem here. You want to say Caraway wrestle f***ed me? I was exhausted and Caraway couldn’t do half of what he did to you to me. Get the f*** outta here.”
Sterling confirmed that he will have one fight remaining on his eight-fight contract after UFC 228. Since signing that contract in February 2016, “The Funk Master” has split wins and losses (3-3) through six fights, with his two most recent defeats at the hands of arguably the two top contenders in the bantamweight division right now, Marlon Moraes and Raphael Assuncao.
“Yeah, this is one of the last two,” Sterling shared.
“I don’t know why if that’s why they have given me this guy. A guy who doesn’t really do much in terms of name value. I don’t know. You never really know what the UFC brass is thinking. I’m just gonna feed myself, take care of myself.”
Get a front-row seat for Aljamain Sterling’s training camp as he prepares for his UFC 228 bout with Cody Stamann: ‘The Funk Chronicles’ video series hosted by MMA Junkie.
Jake is The Body Lock's Editor in Chief, based in Tasmania, Australia.