Aljamain Sterling is ready to prove his haters wrong once again when he returns to the Octagon this August for his fourth UFC bantamweight world title defense.
‘Funk Master’ has had a masterful run in mixed martial arts dating back to 2018, when his current nine-fight win streak began. In the process, he has captured and defended the 135-pound title against former world champions, including Petr Yan, T.J. Dillashaw, and Henry Cejudo. Despite his undeniable success, Sterling remains one of the promotion’s most vilified fighters, much of that stemming from his somewhat controversial title win over Petr Yan in 2021.
Since then, ‘Funk Master’ has done more than enough to quell the comments coming from his detractors, but that hasn’t stopped his haters from regularly taking aim at him. As a result, Sterling found himself leaning into the villainous role that the fans have handed him. Appearing on a recent episode of BS with Jake Paul, Sterling spoke about his role as a UFC bad guy, suggesting that he doesn’t always enjoy playing the villain but is more than happy to snap back at MMA fans on social media when the mood strikes.
“I don’t know if I play it. I feel like I’m half in, half out because sometimes I play up to it, and I lean into it a little bit, and sometimes I just want to chill and be me,” Sterling said. “But I like to break balls. I like to have a little fun. People think, ‘Oh, you’re getting sensitive when you talk sh*t back online.’ I literally type it, and I’m done. I go about my day. It’s literally water off my back, and that’s just how we are in Long Island. We talk sh*t, break balls, and I don’t f*cking know you.
“I don’t know these people. You don’t know these people. You sit behind a computer screen pushing your thumbs, and you think that makes you valid. But they want a reaction, and I give it to them. If this makes you feel better and more validated in your life that you got a response from me, I hope that makes you feel better and get through your day. Maybe they really do need that dopamine hit.”
— ESPN MMA (@espnmma) May 7, 2023
Aljamain Sterling Suggests the UFC is Actively Working to Get the Bantamweight Title Away from Him
Sterling also threw some shade at his current employer, suggesting they did everything in their power to keep him from a UFC title opportunity until it was essentially unavoidable.
“Everyone’s gonna have an opinion, and I guess they say if you have no haters, you ain’t doing nothing. So I think I’m doing a pretty damn good job that people are paying attention, and this is a tough hill to climb. They did everything they could to not give me a title shot, and everyone they thought was going to be the next guy kept losing. Or I beat a common opponent, or I beat them myself directly until I was the last man standing.”
Asked if he believes the UFC plays favorites, Sterling responded without hesitation.
“100 percent. It’s a business. It’s an entertainment business, so I get that side of it,” Sterling admitted.
As to whether or not he believes the promotion wants certain individuals, like Sean O’Malley, to become a UFC champion, Sterling said:
“100 percent. I want to grow my hair out a little bit more and dye it a bunch of different colors. Sterling said, referencing his next opponent. “Put some tattoos on my eyebrows. It’s a funny game, man. I feel like they’ve been putting obstacles in front of me, and I just keep jumping over it, passing every single test, and I think at the end of the day, greatness can’t be denied. So that’s just all I’m gonna do. You want to put another obstacle in my way, I’m just gonna run through it, and like I tweeted, I’m p*ssing in your Cheerios again.
“There’s a reason I’m the main event in the last fight. There’s a reason I’m the main event in the next one. I’m the guy for them. They want to get behind him, thinking he’s the guy. I’m gonna prove them wrong again, and then from there. It’s gonna be like you have no other choice but to put me in that spot.”
Aljamain Sterling will return to defend his title against No. 2 ranked bantamweight contender Sean O’Malley in the UFC 292 main event on August 19.