Some fighters will say there isn’t any attention on them, that they’re not getting the media spotlight they deserve. Others, like undefeated UFC bantamweight Aljamain Sterling, will go out of his way to make sure that opportunities to be seen and heard aren’t missed.
At the UFC open workouts on Tuesday afternoon in Las Vegas, Sterling sort of crashed the event. Though the 26-year-old fighter wasn’t listed to appear, he wanted to make the most of fight week and convinced UFC officials to let him do a workout for the fans gathered at the MGM Grand and to speak to the media as well.
In an exclusive interview with FOXSports.com, Sterling (11-0, MMA) explained what he hoped to achieve by making an appearance at the event.
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"I wanted to seize the opportunity and make the most of it," Sterling said. "And I think I’m a highly touted guy right now and a lot of people want to see me on the main card. A lot of people are asking why I’m not on the main card and I think I rightfully deserved to be at the open workouts. Even if they told me no, I was going to workout there regardless.
"I think people had a fun time watching me and to see some of the stuff I could do. It was fun. It was a great experience," Sterling added.
Though the Serra-Longo fighter is ranked at No. 5 in the bantamweight division, his bout with the No. 10 ranked Johnny Eduardo is on the preliminary card rather than the main card. Ideally, Sterling hopes his actions today will get him more chances to speak to the media. Putting his name on the UFC’s radar this week was part of his plan to make his presence known. Perhaps it’ll boost his chances of being placed on a main card soon as well.
"I think I put myself on the map doing what I did today. My whole thing right now, where I’m at in my career, I think the UFC is going to realize — I am a company guy at the end of the day — but I think they weren’t sure about my potential and I think they’re starting to see that I’m for real," Sterling said.
"I’m going to be around for a very, very long time and people need to start getting comfortable and familiar with my face, and I need to get comfortable being under the cameras and doing things like that. That was another reason for my request and wanting do that. And at the end of the day, I had a great experience. I can’t wait to do it again."
After three Octagon wins and a key victory over Takeya Mizugaki this April, "The Funk Master" is ready to move up the ladder with competition as well. While he’s excited to trade leather with a veteran like Eduardo, he anxious to battle men ranked above him. Still, he’s not looking past his current adversary.
"I definitely think that this is a tough fight. He came off of a huge win knocking out Eddie Wineland," Sterling stated. "I think that’s a testament to his skill set and his ability to fight and mix it up with the best in the world. With that being said, I think that a win over him definitely warrants a high-profile fight and if I get a finish, which I plan on doing, I think that even further solidifies my spot in the rankings and it makes me the next contender in line next to Urijah Faber."
With just two contests added to his resume in 2015, the New York native wants to be more active in the coming year, even if that means moving up a weight class.
"I think I can try to stay healthy and I think I can go to 145 as well," Sterling said. "I’m in a weird spot where I’m in the top five now and for me to fight guys in my division, a lot of them are hurt in the top five. The only options I have — there’s not many options, just a lot of injuries plaguing the division."
Though Sterling eventually wants to contend for the title in the bantamweight division, he’ll be cutting about 35-pounds to make the bantamweight mark for this fight. As he gets older, he knows a move up to featherweight may make sense.
"For this camp, I started at 160. That’s the heaviest I’ve ever been in the past few years … it kind of sucked. I was like, ‘man, I’m getting big. I don’t know how the hell I’m going to make this weight.’ It got to a point where I was like, ‘I’m going to have to eventually move up a weight class.’
"To me, I know I’m going to be a lot faster and be just as strong," Sterling added. "The only thing I won’t have is the size advantage. I’ll probably be an averaged size featherweight. But that won’t matter when I have speed and strength on my side. So I think it’s something I can definitely do in the future and I’m not opposed to doing that anytime soon."
But until that day comes, make sure to watch one of the top talents in the bantamweight division lock horns with Eduardo this Thursday. Sterling vs. Eduardo will throw down on the exclusive UFC Fight Pass card dubbed UFC Fight Night: Namajunas vs. VanZant.