Ray Longo believes Aljamain Sterling will move up to the featherweight division after UFC 292
On Saturday, August 19, Sterling will headline UFC 292 as he looks to defend his bantamweight title against Sean O’Malley. Regardless of the outcome, ‘Funk Master’ has teased plans to leave the 135-pound division to avoid a fight against his teammate and close friend, Merab Dvalishvili.
During an interview with Shakiel Mahjouri, Sterling’s coach, Ray Longo, had this to say about the bantamweight king potentially fighting at 145 pounds moving forward:
“I’d say I don’t know for sure, but I think, especially if he wins, which he will, I think he’s moving up. I don’t know that for sure though, I really don’t. I think he’s got such a great relationship with Merab [Dvalishvili]. He really wants to see Merab fight for that title.”
Longo followed up by praising Sterling for remaining loyal to Dvalishvili:
“These are the things you kinda can’t teach people. You can surround him by other like-minded people to where it becomes a natural thing. I love it, man. I don’t know. If he does that, that would be a really selflessness act that you could have. I think the likelihood of that is really really up there.”
Merab Dvalishvili lost his first two Octagon appearances against Frankie Saenz and Ricky Simon. Since then, ‘The Machine has won nine consecutive UFC fights, including his last bout against Petr Yan in March. The number one-ranked bantamweight looks to continue his path to UFC gold later this year after recovering from hand surgery.
Ray Longo reacts to Aljamain Sterling not getting the respect he deserves
Aljamain Sterling became the UFC bantamweight champion with a disqualification win against Petr Yan in March 2021. Over the following two years, Sterling defended his throne against Yan, TJ Dillashaw, and Henry Cejudo. Despite his impressive resume, some fans refuse to give ‘Funk Master’ his deserved credit.
During the same interview with Shakiel Mahjouri, Ray Longo had this to say about Sterling ignoring the doubters:
“I think we got a small group, right? We’re pretty close. I really believe Aljo [Sterling] only cares about what the good people around him think, and we all know what the deal is, and that’s it… The only way to deal with it is to not respond to it.”
Aljamain Sterling will be widely considered the greatest bantamweight of all time with a win on Saturday night. It’ll be easier said than done, as Sean O’Malley is riding momentum after defeating Petr Yan by split decision in October 2022. Only time will tell if ‘Suga’ can continue evolving into a worldwide superstar by dethroning Sterling at UFC 292.