After a long recovery and spell on the sidelines, which consistently saw some fans and pundits downplay his championship status and credentials, Sterling made good on his promise to prove his doubters wrong in his first title defense.
In Florida last weekend, “Funk Master” was awarded a split decision victory. In the eyes of most, the scoring of the fight came down to one round. While two and three were clearly Sterling’s frames, and four and five certainly went the opposite way, a close feeling-out process in the first has split opinion.
While two judges of the three judges, as well as 11 of 18 media members and 40.8% of the voting public on MMA Decisions, gave the round to Sterling, veteran MMA figure “Big” McCarthy believes there’s “no way” the champ did enough to win the opening stanza.
“I was very impressed with Aljamain and the way he fought, but there’s no way he won that first round,” McCarthy said on his Weighing In podcast. “The heavier shots were landed easily by Yan, and I thought it was a smart tactic by Aljamain to stay on the outside, to move continuously, but he didn’t land much… There’s no way in the world you’re gonna tell me that Aljo won that first round.” (h/t MMA Junkie)
During a recent appearance on The MMA Hour with Ariel Helwani, Sterling hit back. The occupier of the 135-pound throne first took aim at those branding his victory as a “robbery,” a term that tends to be thrown around at will in modern MMA.
“People that says ‘robbery,’ what is a robbery? I don’t even know what a robbery is anymore,” said Sterling. “It’s almost like people that say ‘cringe’ for anything, ‘Ah, that’s cringe, that’s cringe.’ You make a joke, ‘Ah, that’s cringe.’ Everything is cringe, everything is a robbery because your guy didn’t win the round in a very close striking stat.
“It’s pretty black and white. The guy who landed more strikes should win the round, especially when it was pretty much a kicking contest,” Sterling continued. “Who got the better kicks? I did. Who had the better footwork? I did. Who had the more purposeful footwork? I did. Who walks forward with a mean face and just looks scary and didn’t do sh*t? Petr. That’s it.”
Sterling then trained his aim on former UFC official and now-Bellator MMA commentator McCarthy. After slamming the 59-year-old’s ‘clueless’ opinion, the champ encouraged McCarthy to remain quiet about things he could never accomplish.
“For people (to say), ‘There’s absolutely no way you could score that round’ — big stupid John McCarthy voice, dude, go get a clue,” asserted Sterling. “I don’t know how this guy was ever the blueprint standard of MMA, because that guy sucks. His opinion stinks and it sucks. He just says sh*t. I think he just wants people to think that he knows what he’s talking about.
“I think he had an MMA school, I think he had fighters. Which one of them ever did anything? What did his school ever do? Clearly, this guy is so great, right? So what has he ever accomplished? Other than trying to judge people and being completely wrong about the scoring criteria of the fight,” added Sterling. “If you wanna have an opinion, have an opinion John, but it doesn’t mean you’re correct. You are not going by the criteria of how you score a fight. Please, just be quiet and let the big boys do at a high level something you never accomplished.”
McCarthy Gets Support From Podcast Co-Host & Responds Himself
Having taken on one host of the Weighing In podcast, Sterling later went back-and-forth on social media with the other after Josh Thomson came to his friend and fellow Bellator analyst’s aid.
Thomson, a former UFC fighter, questioned why Sterling didn’t have the same energy about UFC President Dana White, who also suggested the judges got it wrong at UFC 273.
“Why didn’t @funkmasterMMA have that same energy when @danawhite said he lost the fight, eh @JohnMcCarthyMMA I’ll wait….”
Interestingly, on the same day that he berated McCarthy’s opinion, Sterling also responded to White’s claim that the judges “blew” it on April 9, inviting the UFC kingpin to explain how, per the criteria, Yan won the first round.
In another tweet, Thomson questioned how Sterling can claim that McCarthy, who has been in and around the sport for the best part of three decades, doesn’t have a grasp of the scoring criteria.
“Exactly! Just like @funkmasterMMA . I’ll make a bet he doesn’t know all the rules to mma so how is he gonna tell someone like @JohnMcCarthyMMA he doesn’t know what he’s talking about? Asking for a friend ….”
Unsurprisingly, Sterling’s response was as firm as we’ve come to expect of the champ since his successful return in Jacksonville. “Funk Master” accused both Thomson and McCarthy of ‘dogging’ him for ratings, as well as reminding “The Punk” that he’d also addressed White’s post-fight remarks.
“Josh… Respectfully. GTFO my [nut emoji] You and John can blow each other in the back studio for all I care. You guys constantly dog me for ratings. Piss off already. FTR, I sh*t on Dana’s opinion too. Now have a sh*tty day!”
In another post, in which he referred to McCarthy as “fatty,” Sterling suggested that anytime an opportunity arises to draw some attention and clicks, Thomson latches onto it.
“This dude don’t stop. Any chance for some clicks, him and fatty talk sh*t about me or throw shade. Like what have you done so great to feel comfortable talking sh*t about other fighters that are actually DOING IT? Him of all ppl should respect that and should’ve been checking JM”
John McCarthy would then issue the following response after catching wind of Sterling’s comments.
“Alright @funkmasterMMA I see that what I say causes you great distress. The fact that I don’t agree on a single round should not (affect) or impact your life in any way. I said you fought a great fight and you did, congratulations. Name calling…really, champions are above that,’ McCarthy wrote.
Sterling would then immediately respond to McCarthy.
“You think I give a shit about someone not agreeing with me? You and josh are CONSTANTLY disrespectful to us fighters. That’s where you both annoy me. Especially Josh, as a former high level athleteYou wanna try to take the high road now? Please look in the mirror Mr Perfect”
Do you agree with Aljamain Sterling? Was John McCarthy’s view of the UFC 273 co-main event wrong?