What Does Ray Longo Believe Bantamweight Contender Aljamain Sterling Shouldn’t Do?
When Aljamain Sterling made quick work of Cory Sandhagen at UFC 250 a few weeks ago, it appeared he had enough energy to compete in a quick turnaround. He was expecting a title opportunity, as was a majority of the MMA community. Now, he must wait once again for his time to shine.
Currently, a UFC Bantamweight Title bout has been set for UFC 251 on July 11. Taking place on “Fight Island” in Abu Dhabi, Petr Yan will face off against former UFC Featherweight Champion Jose Aldo for the interim title. There has been some backlash with the latter being involved in the bout since he is 2-4 in his last six fights and is on a two-fight losing streak. Making his bantamweight debut in December, Aldo (28-6) lost to Marlin Moraes via split decision.
Sterling (19-3) only needed one round to take out Sandhagen. This came after months of being away due to surgery. Ranked second in the UFC’s bantamweight rankings, “Funk Master” was pleading for a title shot. So was his coach, Ray Longo.
“Over here we thought he deserved … this could have been a title fight,” Longo stated to MMA Junkie. “You had two really good guys on great winning streaks. Look, technically Aljo might be the uncrowned champ right now. Who the heck knows? But we always believed that he should have been fighting for a title, and if this is what he had to do to get there, to have that one more fight against a guy that’s right up there with him in the division, and that’s what he did.”
Aldo is ranked sixth in the rankings and is getting his second shot at the UFC Bantamweight Title. He was originally set to face Henry Cejudo in Brazil, but due to travel issues as a result of the coronavirus, he was unable to compete. Dominick Reyes took his spot and Cejudo ended up beating him, vacating the title, and retiring.
Now, it is unknown what is next for Sterling. After recovering from a Moraes knee in 2017, the 30-year-old is on a five-fight win streak. He won two fights in 2019 against Jimmie Rivera and Pedro Munhoz. Longo believes that he has done enough to earn a title shot, and anything less wouldn’t be worth fighting over.
“He couldn’t have had a better outcome, and now there’s absolutely no question he earned a title shot. … I wouldn’t sign a contract unless it’s for a title,” Longo went on to say. “I mean, he earned it. He deserves it, he works hard, and that’s what it’s all about.”
UFC President Dana White has not yet announced plans for the rest of the contenders within the division.