This Saturday in Atlantic City, Welshman Brett Johns (15-0) will be looking to break into the top 10 of the bantamweight division when he takes on wrestling sensation Aljamain “Funkmaster” Sterling (14-3).
Coming off a first-round loss to Marlon Moraes, Aljamain Sterling is eager to get back into the win column. Speaking to The Body Lock, Sterling shares that this bantamweight bout will only bring out the best in each fighter.
“He’s a tough dude, and he’s a good grappler, a black belt in Judo. I haven’t seen him off of his back yet, I’ve seen him on top, and he doesn’t do a heck of a lot. I think this is going to be a fight where we both bring the best out of each other.”
Both fighters have exceptional resumes when it comes to submissions, and neither of them should be taken lightly. However, Sterling was not impressed with Johns’ latest victory: a calf slicer in under 40 seconds against former title challenger Joe Soto.
“He fought a well known Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu practitioner who is great at leg locks. If I’m gonna have to be completely honest I’m gonna say Joe Soto took that position lightly and I guess he underestimated the skills and knowledge of BJJ that Brett Johns has. I think if they were to roll in a regular match any day or just rolling in regular practice that does not happen and he probably gets submitted via leg lock a couple of times by Joe.”
Sterling emphasized that, despite Johns’ calf slicer win, he has a more diverse submission game than his Welsh counterpart.
“People would always tell me I’m funky”
For Sterling, the journey has not been easy. After dropping two split decisions, “Funkmaster” has since gone 2-1 in the promotion. However, in July 2017, he earned his biggest win to date when he dismantled former champion Renan Barao over the course of three rounds. His performance against the Brazilian showcased his electrifying striking combined with his unorthodox wrestling – all the recipes for domination.
If you’ve wondered how Sterling became known as the “Funkmaster,” the 28-year-old kindly explained the origins of his moniker.
“It’s just a tribute to my wrestling style, it’s been a lot of grappling, a lot of untraditional moves. I didn’t have a good sprawl, I didn’t have a good shot, I didn’t know how to take anybody down – I didn’t know how to get to the legs at all. I just hopefully fell into it or bullied guys into it, or they shot in on me. Then I was able to reverse them, get on a leg and take them down, and people would always tell me I’m scrambly or funky, and that’s pretty much how you got the birth of the funkmaster.”
Beating the best
In mixed martial arts, fighters are always looking to battle everybody above them. It is common for fighters to call out other fighters, and this has been no different for Aljamain.
Rob Font recently called out the “Funkmaster”, and he had some words to say about it.
“I saw Rob Font in the back room for UFC 223, I didn’t wanna make a big deal or scene while Al was getting ready for his fight. But then after the fight, I ended up going to the back and grabbing my stuff, and I saw him and I made sure I let him know. He came into the room a couple of minutes after I was gathering everything and I said: “Hey homie I’m gonna make sure you get that fight, so just make sure you’re ready,” and that was pretty much it. I think I caught him a little off guard. It almost seemed like he didn’t know what to say whatsoever.”
Although Sterling was recently called out, he mentioned that he has “got plans” for who he wants to call out after UFC Fight Night 128, but insists he’s only focused on Brett.
Sterling strongly believes that MMA is about testing yourself against the best people in the world, something he never got to do in wrestling.
“I wanna fight all the top guys, that’s what this sports about. I didn’t get to face all the top guys in wrestling, and it kinda sucks cause I felt like I could have beaten some of those guys if I ever had the chance.”
Brett Johns vs. Aljamain Sterling is a scheduled fight on the main card of UFC Fight Night 128 in Atlantic City, New Jersey.
Steven is a Mixed Martial Arts journalist and analyst from the United Kingdom.