Back at UFC 250 in June of 2020, Sterling put himself in title contention after submitting Sanhagen in lightning-quick fashion. This was before the 31-year old took on Sandhagen before his controversial championship win against Petr Yan at UFC 259. Sterling wanted a fight with Yan instead of Sandhagen at UFC 250 but mentioned UFC matchmakers were adamant about matching him with either Marlon Moraes again or facing Sandhagen (Sterling chose the latter). After taking out Sandhagen, the Longo-Serra product won the belt and became the champion via disqualification due to an illegal knee.
Aljamain Sterling illuminated what it’s like talking to UFC matchmakers when he spoke to ESPN about the matter.
“Sean Shelby asked me simply, who do you want to fight?: Aljamain Sterling said to ESPN. “Marlon, Yan, or Sandhagen after the Pedro Munhoz fight. And I said, ‘If I could have it my way, I would like to fight Petr Yan.'”
Overall, Aljamain Sterling believed Yan was the easier fight, and the champion underlined how unorthodox and dangerous Sandhagen is. Despite wanting to fight Petr Yan first, the UFC ignored Sterling’s request and matched him with “The Sandman” anyway.
“Because I knew, stylistically, it was a better matchup for me,” Sterling said. “I didn’t want to fight Cory. I knew Cory was a tough dude, very unorthodox. He’s tall. He’s long, he’s rangy, he’s fast-switch, and he’s got unpredictability. You don’t know when those knees are gonna come in. He’s long with the front kicks. He’s hard to get in on the inside, and he has competent BJJ. And that was a tough fight for me in my head.” Sterling said.
In the end, Aljamain Sterling handled Sandhagen without issue and went on to capture the title, but the champion made it apparent that the path was not easy. For the time being, the bantamweight champion continues to heal after successful shoulder surgery and looks to return this November.
What do you make of Aljamain Sterling’s claim that Cory Sandhagen is a tougher fight than Petr Yan?