Aljamain Sterling, the former UFC bantamweight champion, will be moving up to featherweight.
The news arrives following Sterling’s second round knockout loss to Sean O’Malley at UFC 292, where O’Malley became the bantamweight champion. The defeat ended Sterling’s nine-fight-win streak, which included three successful title defenses. However, the attempts at securing a rematch failed as O’Malley ruled it out on the basis that their fight was not competitive. Instead, the champion called out Gervonta Davis for a boxing match before going on to secure a rematch with Marlon Vera, the only fighter he has lost to.
“I don’t really follow boxing, but I’ve heard of Gervonta Davis and I think he’s undefeated. I want to have crazy massive fights that s—t gets me excited. I love that stuff. And there’s no stars in the Bantamweight division. Gervonta, you could consider him almost a star, and that’s what gets me excited. Me vs. Gervonta? That would be fu—king massive. T Mobile arena? Or here … f—k it,” O’Malley
That understandably left Sterling short of options, which is why a move up to featherweight made sense.
“I think if I’m going to go up, why not shot for the stars. For me to go fight an up and comer doesn’t make a ton of sense. What does that do for me. I go in and win one fight against a guy like Max Holloway, I mean, I don’t think there’s anyone else to turn to. That guy is the one who is literally banishing all the contenders one by one, so if he’s going to keep dispatching these guys, it’s new blood, a new face,” Sterling
One of the factors that influenced the decision was Sterling’s difficulty in making the weight. The MMA fighter admitted that his walking-around weight has been as high as 180 pounds. And given that he was a big bantamweight, expecting him to boil down to the weight class was no longer sustainable. A move up, however, could potentially see Sterling face Alexander Volkanovski later down the line. The featherweight champion remains undefeated at the weight class, clearly showing that he is the man to beat. So, moving forward, Sterling has plenty to consider.