Sterling will face Cody
Stamann at UFC
228 on Sept. 8 at the American Airlines Center in Dallas. While
the fight pits two Top-10 bantamweights against each other and has
garnered considerable interest from fans, Sterling has shown
himself to be less than pleased with the scenario.
Sterling took to Twitter in recent months to proclaim his desire
for a bout with Dominick
Cruz — a competitor he has admired for years.
“He’s been a guy I looked up to for a long time,” Sterling told
Sherdog.com. “I mimic a lot of my fight style from him.”
As a fighter who has been ranked as high as No. 4 and currently
sits eighth in the
Ultimate Fighting Championship’s bantamweight rankings,
Sterling feels he has earned the right to ask for a career-defining
fight. In his mind, the pairing with Cruz made sense on a number of
fronts. Both were available at the time; Cruz is a highly ranked
former champion; and Sterling wanted to test himself against a
fighter many view as the gold standard at 135 pounds. Plus, he
believes it to be a fight he can win.
“I think he’s on the downward side of his career [and] time is
catching up to him,” Sterling said. “I think I am one of those
new-breed fighters that can take him out.”
In a recent interview on “The MMA Hour,” Cruz intimated that the
broken arm he suffered in November — he was training for a
scheduled bout with Jimmie
Rivera — has never fully healed, turning a three-month
recovery into one lasting nearly eight months. That made him
unavailable during the time when Sterling was angling for a fight.
When asked if he was ever informed about Cruz’s status through UFC
back channels, the Serra-Longo Fight Team product offered a
short-and-sweet response: “No, no one said that.”
Sterling claims he is not frustrated about not getting Cruz in the
cage, fully aware that fighters do not always get the opponents for
which they ask. He also would have understood if Cruz had turned
down the fight. “I know it was a lose-lose situation for him,”
Sterling said. “You lose to me, you lose your spot.” The
29-year-old’s discontent can be traced to the fact that he was not
afforded an opportunity to face any of the fighters he suggested to
the UFC via text message. “I gave the matchmakers a list of names
to fight,” Sterling said. “Cruz was on the top of the list …
Rivera, John Dodson.
I think I asked for Eddie
Wineland, but I’m not really sure.”
Although Sterling respects Cruz immensely, he concedes to being
annoyed with “The Dominator” for trying to get his name in the
running for a title shot at reigning bantamweight champion T.J.
Dillashaw. Cruz defeated Dillashaw in a title fight in January
2016 but has not competed in nearly two years.
“Dude, who do you think you’re fooling? You beat T.J. in a split
decision,” Sterling said. “People are saying he’s the best
bantamweight of all-time. Yeah, he was the best bantamweight of
that era. You have guys who earned their shots, staying relevant
[and] putting guys away. You’ve got Marlon
Moraes. You’ve got Raphael
Assuncao. Those are the guys who should be getting the
While Sterling stopped short of saying recent matchmaking decisions
have soured his opinion of the UFC, he concedes it has made him
wonder what the organization wants from its fighters.
“It’s starting to become more about the shenanigans than anything
else,” he said. “What should I do, dye my hair like [Tekashi]
6ix9ine? Tattoo my face and just talk all kinds of crazy hood s—?
I don’t want to have to do stuff like that. It’s not going to be
UFC anymore; it’s going to be called UFE: Ultimate Fighting
Ultimately, Stamann was the only opponent offered to Sterling.
Having entered the Octagon four times in 2017 and with two fights
under his belt this year, he chose to stay active and collect a
paycheck rather than continue to wait for the fights he wanted.
Life goals away from the sport played a major role in his
“Finances definitely played a big factor,” Sterling said. “I’m
trying to buy a house. It’s crazy to know I’ve had 10 fights in the
UFC and I’m not even a homeowner yet.”
Stamann, now 17-1, drew Sterling into a Twitter batter over his
decision to call out Cruz. Much to Sterling’s chagrin, the back and
forth on social media likely played a part in UFC matchmakers
pitting the two against each other. Stamann was not the first
fighter to target the former
Cage Fury Fighting Championships titleholder.
“All these guys are calling me out,” said Sterling, pointing to
Font and Pedro
Munhoz as examples. “I guess [they] must have the hots for me.
I’m looking forward to shutting these guys up one by one.”
Sterling plans to keep it simple against Stamann, who enters the
cage on a 10-fight winning streak. “I know Cody Stamann is a tough
dude,” he said, “but I am looking to give another one-sided
beatdown.” As for other bantamweights on the roster who wish to
face him, Sterling welcomes their challenge: “Line them up. I’m
going to knock them down.”