Former bantamweight world champion Aljamain Sterling, like many of us, was left confused by the UFC’s recent handling of the heavyweight division. Particularly the situation with interim titleholder Tom Aspinall and reigning undisputed champ Jon Jones.
‘Bones’ was originally scheduled to defend his title in a heavyweight superfight against Stipe Miocic at UFC 295, but a pectoral tear whilst training forced him out of the contest. As a result, the UFC booked an interim title tilt between top-ranked contenders Tom Aspinall and Sergei Pavlovich with the winner expecting to unify the title against ‘Bones’ once medically cleared.
Aspinall emerged victorious, scoring a first-round knockout against Pavlovich, but in a frustrating twist, he will not go on to unify his title with Jon Jones’ undisputed strap.
“If we go by merit, which the UFC is supposed to be based on… That’s why we have a ranking system, Sterling said on his YouTube channel. “That’s why we have the interim title. It has to have some type of meaning, or else what are we doing? It’s just a clown show and just what have you done for me lately. That’s essentially what it’s becoming.
“Jon Jones is injured. It’s going to take some time for him to get the surgery, which he did, take the time to heal and do the rehab, which he’s currently doing. And then have the time that he needs to prepare for said fight. So then Aspinall wins the interim championship and usually when the interim champion is healthy and the undisputed champion comes back from whatever reason, they’re supposed to unify the belts. But we’re not going to see that.”
Aljamain Sterling Believes the UFC is Banking on Jon Jones to Beat Stipe Miocic
UFC CEO Dana White revealed that, despite instituting an interim title, his plans for Jones vs. Miocic will move forward with the winner moving on to face Aspinall in a title unification clash sometime in 2024.
“It doesn’t sit right with me. I feel for Aspinall,” Sterling continued. “What the heck is the point of the interim championship if I’m here and ready to go and when the champ gets back, I’m not gonna unify the belts. I’m gonna have to wait. The UFC is pretty much saying, ‘We think Stipe is going to lose so Aspinall, sit tight and you’ll get your match with Jon Jones.’
“That’s crazy. It’s a fistfight. Anything can happen and Stipe is a really good boxer so let’s not write Stipe completely off. I don’t like when people do that. People always try to say this person has no chance and that they’re gonna get killed. People said that about my last fight and I ended up being the one that got killed. It’s just one of those things. It happens.”
No matter how things shake out between Jon Jones and Stipe Miocic, Sterling believes that Aspinall could ultimately be left out to dry either way, suggesting that ‘Bones’ will likely walk away from the sport with little left to prove should he come out on top against Miocic. And if Miocic wins, it’s the same story.
Many, including UFC Hall of Famer Daniel Cormier, have suggested that Tom Aspinall deserves to be dubbed the undisputed heavyweight champion with Jones’ timeline for a return still up in the air.
Watch Aljamain Sterling’s full video below: