Despite several delays, Aljamain Sterling says his next fight is ‘110 percent’ going to be against Henry Cejudo.
The reigning UFC bantamweight champion was rumored to defend against Cejudo at two separate pay-per-view events between the first and second quarter of 2023. First was UFC 285 in March, then UFC 287 in April, but neither of those was possible for the ‘Funk Master,’ who has delayed his return to deal with a bicep injury.
After weighing his options, Sterling has settled on stem cell treatment in the hopes of avoiding surgery and expediting his return, which he expects to be in May.
“Henry, ‘Triple Zero’ is next,” said Sterling during a recent interview with The Schmo. “110 percent, he’s next. It’s not going to be April, though. After talking with my medical team and the doctors, we’re going to give myself a little bit more time. It’s going to be May. It’s kind of crazy how everything kind of comes full circle. After the fight, I knew I had these injuries going into the fight, before the rematch with [Petr] Yan, then the T.J. [Dillashaw] fight kind of kicked the can down the road. And I knew eventually I was going to have to get it done, so here we are.
“I think the stem cells with BioXcellerator is going to be very good,” continued Sterling. “I’m very optimistic about that. And I think it’s going to get me back to 100 percent so I can compete against a tough competitor like ‘Triple Zero’ and remind him that he should have stayed retired.”
Should Sterling defeat ’Triple C,’ he has hinted at a move from bantamweight to featherweight next. According to the Serra-Longo Fight Team product, the weight-cutting process has become more difficult over the years, so going up could ‘make things a little bit easier’ for him.
Though he admitted a potential fight against new No. 1 contender Sean O’Malley could convince him to stay around, Sterling would rather move up now to give his teammate Merab Dvalishvili a clear path to his first UFC championship opportunity.
“I could see a second-round finish, TKO, and after I finish Henry Cejudo, I really don’t think the bantamweight division has anything left for me,” said Sterling. “Maybe a money fight with Sean O’Malley, if he can get his toenails in order and make sure he stays pretty on the sideline and healthy, doesn’t want to fight anyone tough at the top of the division, because he needs more time to get ready for the grappling. And I understand. We kind of would just run through him right now. So maybe that fight might entice me, or I’m probably just going to go up 145 and let Merab continue to reign terror on the rest of these guys in the bantamweight division.”
Sterling is on an eight-fight win streak, with two successful defenses against Petr Yan and T.J. Dillashaw among his highlights.
About the author: Kristen King is a writer for Bloody Elbow. She has covered combat sports since 2016. (full bio)