Sterling has occupied the throne at 135 pounds since a disqualification win against Petr Yan last March. While his reign and the method of victory that started it came under scrutiny, “Funk Master” has since legitimized his rule with a pair of defenses.
Having added a second success over Yan to his record this past April at UFC 273, outpointing the Russian across five rounds, Sterling quickly dispatched an injured TJ Dillashaw via TKO last month in Abu Dhabi.
Now, having beaten the formerly ranked top-two men in the division, talk has turned to who Sterling may put the belt on the line against next.
And while there are certainly some contenders on the bantamweight ladder who have perhaps earned the shot, including Sean O’Malley and Marlon Vera, there’s also the seemingly impending return of the division’s former king.
Since retiring and vacating the bantamweight title in 2020, Cejudo has consistently hinted at a comeback, with talk of a return picking up this year following his re-entry into the USADA testing pool.
Post-UFC 280, reports suggested that “Triple C” had emerged as the frontrunner to face Sterling next, with the promotion targeting the matchup for UFC 284 next February. While the champ is instead targeting June as his next outing, that hasn’t stopped Cejudo continuing to stake his claim on social media.
Much of the discourse surrounding the pairing has focused on the clash of wrestling styles, with many questioning whether the reigning king could overcome Cejudo’s abilities, which helped him secure gold at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games in freestyle wrestling.
But not only is Sterling confident of negating that inside the Octagon, he also believes he’d fare more than well against the former bantamweight and flyweight king on the mats.
Sterling Not Afraid Of Cejudo’s Olympic-Pedigree Wrestling
During a recent appearance on Food Truck Diaries with Brendan Schaub, Sterling responded to the confidence that Cejudo has in how his wrestling game would stack up against the champ’s.
“Funk Master” believes that “Triple C” is overestimating the impact his arsenal will have against another highly regarded wrestler. But more than just handling the 2008 Olympic gold medalist’s attacks in MMA, Sterling believes that he would actually beat Cejudo in certain styles on the mats.
“He keeps talking about this wrestling background. I’m like, that doesn’t have any real baring on the fight when you have another high-level wrestler,” Sterling said. “I mean, if we had a wrestling match, I’m like, ‘Cejudo, how badly do you think you would win? Or how badly would you actually lose?’
“Folkstyle wrestling is what I did in college and high school. Henry didn’t do folkstyle in college. He did freestyle and went right to the Olympics. So it’s a little different style. That’s why my back-riding is high level,” Sterling continued. “We wrestle on top, we’re allowed to wrestle on top position, get control. That’s why I think if we wrestled, I’d beat him, depending on the style.”
While the wrestling comparison currently sits as a debate and nothing more, it seems that Cejudo’s renewed ambitions in the sport could mean the pair’s theories and confidence get put to the test against each other inside the Octagon next year.
How do you think a wrestling match between Aljamain Sterling and Henry Cejudo would play out?