Aljamain Sterling is defending the UFC bantamweight championship against Henry Cejudo.
The reigning champion announced on an episode of The Weekly Scraps podcast that Cejudo is his next opponent. The announcement comes days after Dominance MMA manager Ali Abdelaziz told John Morgan of The Underground that Sterling vs. Cejudo was ‘done’ for 2023.
“I’m announcing that I am going to fight Henry next,” said Sterling. “We are targeting March. I will say Ali, brother, it’s done but it’s still not done until there’s ink on the paper, you know what I mean? But it’s done, brother. But it’s still kind of not done but this is the fight that’s going to happen next.”
This is a 180-degree turn for Sterling, who was originally ‘not sold’ on Cejudo returning to competition and cutting other potential challengers in line. The former two-division champion has not fought in nearly three years, and the ‘Funk Master’ thought he should have to fight a top-ranked contender to earn a championship opportunity.
If it was left to Sterling, he would be defending against Sean O’Malley, the new No. 1 contender following his win over Petr Yan. And though he would prefer ’Sugar’ over ‘Triple C,’ the Serra-Longo Fight Team product is still excited for the upcoming fight.
“I like the matchup,” said Sterling. “And I think it’s going to be a fun fight for the fans. I think, on paper, it will be more competitive, even though I think skill-wise O’Malley possesses more of a threat of the fight-ending KO, if that makes sense. Henry can win the fight but I don’t think he wins by finish. I just can’t see myself losing to Henry by finish.
“It’s always possible, but in all honesty, I just don’t see how Henry can find a shot that would put me out,” continued Sterling. “Unless I ran face first into his knee like I did against Marlon Moraes, which knock on wood, I don’t think that’s going to happen again.”