UFC bantamweight champion Aljamain Sterling still has five days before he steps into a cage at UFC 292 to defend his title against Sean O’Malley.
But the Serra-Longo product has already decided what he’ll be doing after, whether he wins or loses the fight.
Speculation has raged for months about how long Sterling, who often walks around 30-40 pounds heavier than his 135-pound fight weight, could remain at bantamweight.
Now we have our answer.
Sterling revealed on Monday’s edition of The MMA Hour that he plans to move up to featherweight going forward, whether he retains his title against O’Malley or not.
Aljamain Sterling says there's a "99.9 percent chance" this is his last fight at bantamweight 👀 #TheMMAHour
"It’s Merab [Dvalishvili’s] time. The second part of that is, I’m a little bit over cutting weight, this much weight.”
— MMAFighting.com (@MMAFighting) August 14, 2023
“This is more than likely my last fight at 135,” Sterling told a surprised Ariel Helwani. “There’s a 99.9 percent chance this is my last fight at 135.”
That comment prompted Helwani to ask where he’d go up even if he defeats O’Malley.
“Well that’s if I win, for sure,” Sterling answered. “I win this for sure, Ariel, I’m outta here!”
Which made Helwani wonder “why.”
“It’s (teammate) Merab’s (Dvalishvili) time, man. It’s Merab’s time and then the second part of that is, you know, I’m a little bit over cutting weight. This much weight,” Sterling explained. “I walk around 65-70. I think I could bulk up, I don’t have to ‘bulk up’, but I think I could hold that frame relatively better. And I think my conditioning and everything could actually go up a little bit more, back to when I was younger.”
Dvalishvili won each of his last nine UFC fights after losing his first two in the promotion. He defeated UFC legend Jose Aldo in August of 2022 then dominated former bantamweight champ Petr Yan in March.
Dvalishvili and Sterling previously stated that they would not fight one another.
Now, should Sterling lose to O’Malley, it sounds like he’s at least open to a rematch. But the reigning champ enters Saturday’s fight as a significant favorite according to most sportsbooks.
So, anyone fancy an Aljamain Sterling-Alexander Volkanovski fight?