Long Island, New York was definitely put on the map two weeks ago at UFC 223 when native son, Al Iaquinta stepped in to face Khabib Nurmagomedov in the main event of that evening. For his teammate and Long Island native himself, Aljamain “Funk Master” Sterling (14-3), who will face Brett Johns (15-0) this Saturday night at UFC Fight Night: Barboza vs Lee, the chaos surrounding that card may have just been what he needed going into his fight in Atlantic City. “It motivated me and got me more pumped up for my fight,” said Sterling. “It gives everyone at the gym a big confidence boost in what we are doing in training and the whole nine.”
Being knocked out by a knee from Marlon Moraes, one of MMA’s most fear strikers was not exactly what Sterling expected in his last fight, quite the opposite actually. But he feels like it was supposed to happen and definitely feels like he took something away from it. “I almost had the submission and thought I would get out with the win in the first round,” explained Sterling. “When I came to after the fight I realized exactly what I did and learned from it. I had a mental lapse where I shot in with no setup and instead of me getting him out of there early, he got me.”
Johns comes in undefeated at 15-0 and Sterling wants to be the first person to put a blemish on that record. “Bryan Caraway did that to me,” said Sterling. “I think we are slightly even but I do everything he does just a little better and I think that is going to be the difference.” And beating an up and coming prospect in the division would help erase some of the woes from his last fight. “He was coming up as the next big thing,” explained Sterling. “So why not fight him and put myself right back up in the position I should have been after the last hiccup in my last fight.”
As the bantamweight division continues to be one the most exciting divisions in the UFC, Sterling is looking to keep himself relevant for quite awhile and seems to think that everything up to this point has happened for a reason and put him in the spot he is at now. “I’m looking at longevity in the sport, said Sterling. “If you sum up that last fight it was kind of like the culmination of all the beatings I’ve given everyone else that I didn’t take in training whatsoever. It was kind of like the MMA gods shaking things out and making it even.”
The fight on Saturday night could be the first step to a title run that to Sterling seems like it could come sooner than later in his career. “I think the division is wide open after this rematch with Cody and TJ,” said Sterling. “I think if I get this win and another one against a top level guy, I think I’ll be right there with a shot for the belt.”
Aljamain Sterling faces Brett Johns at UFC Fight Night: Barboza vs. Lee, this Saturday, April 21st LIVE on FS1. 10pm ET/7pm PT.
Photo Credit: Getty Images/Zuffa, LLC.