Aljamain Sterling has a vested interest in the bantamweight title fight at UFC 251, but he refuses to act like a cheerleader for one competitor over another.
As Petr Yan prepares to battle Jose Aldo to crown a new 135-pound champion, the New York native is expected to face the winner after he made short work of Cory Sandhagen in his most recent appearance in June.
While Sterling has been calling for a fight against Yan for the better part of a year, he’s not going to commit to that as his preferred opponent face because ultimately the title is what matters most to him, not the matchup.
“I never wish ill will saying ‘I wish this guy won or this guy lost.’ I really don’t care,” Sterling told MMA Fighting. “The best guy, let them have their night. Let the better man win and whoever I get to face, I’m excited for the opportunity.”
Sterling may not pick sides in the fight, but he definitely sees areas where Yan and Aldo could succeed or fail depending on their approach to the matchup.
Aldo certainly has the experience advantage after reigning as featherweight champion for several years, but Yan has shown the kind of grit and tenacity that’s led him to an undefeated record in the UFC through six straight fights.
“I know those guys used to train with each other so there’s probably some kind of respect factor there,” Sterling said about the fight. “I think when I look at the landscape between those guys and the skill sets, Jose Aldo is very, very well rounded but he has typically shied away from his kicking game, his jiu-jitsu game and primarily just boxes. I think Petr Yan’s going to come through with the kickboxing, the Muay Thai, the clinch game and the whole package.
“I think Jose Aldo’s really got to pay attention to that and make sure he’s not being one-dimensional and not giving Petr Yan an easy, predictable version of Jose Aldo that’s going to show up that night.”
According to Sterling, he believes a smart, tactical approach to the fight versus just putting on a fan-friendly war could also play a major factor in the outcome.
“It really just depends on what these guys think,” Sterling explained. “If they want to put on a really entertaining fight or if they’re out there competing to win. I think that’s the mindset we have to dive into to see who’s going to bring that type of mindset to win.”
More than anything, Sterling will be watching the title bout as a fan and as the man expected to face the winner later this year.
Rather than calling his shot and picking one fighter over another, he prefers to know that he’s ready for whatever Yan or Aldo will throw at him.
“If Petr Yan wins, I’ve got my whole team we’re going to plant C4 on his railroad tracks and we’re going to blow that sh*t up,” Sterling said. “If Petr Yan wins, we’ll be ready to go.
“Jose Aldo’s a legend. He accomplished many great things in his lifetime. To beat a guy like that if he were to come down and win the bantamweight title, even after coming off of a loss. It was a close fight but I did think he won. But if he comes out and wins that fight against a tough, highly touted Petr Yan, I would love to be the guy to take that strap away from him and further cement my name in the bantamweight division. That’s what it’s all about.”