UFC-Fresno's Aljamain Sterling says T.J. Dillashaw needs to clean out division before challenging Demetrious Johnson

7 December 2017

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FRESNO, Calif. – Aljamain Sterling has heard all the superfight talk about UFC bantamweight champ T.J. Dillashaw moving down to fight flyweight title holder Demetrious Johnson, and frankly, “Funk Master” isn’t a fan of the idea.

“I do understand that T.J. is a two-time world champion at this point, but at the same time, you haven’t cleaned out the division yet,” Sterling told MMAjunkie. “‘Mighty Mouse’ has cleaned out his division. He’s done his job in his weight class.

“T.J., stay put, do your job, because I’m coming for the belt. You’ve got all of us hungry young competitors coming up for the belt, and that’s all it’s all about right now. We’re all chasing gold.”

While there’s no question that Johnson is in dire need of new contenders at 125 pound, Sterling does make an interesting point. After all, Dillashaw just reclaimed the belt with a November knockout of Cody Garbrandt and only defended the title twice in his previous run.

Sure, the thought of Johnson vs. Dillashaw seems fun, on paper, but how do you justify it to the bantamweight contenders currently waiting their shot at the title? Count Sterling (14-2 MMA, 6-2 UFC) on that list ahead of his meeting with former WSOF bantamweight champ Marlon Moraes (19-5-1 MMA, 1-1 UFC) at UFC Fight Night 123, which takes place Saturday at Save Mart Center in Fresno, Calif. The card airs on FS1 following early prelims on UFC Fight Pass.

“I think there’s a lot that’s riding on this fight for the both of us,” Sterling said. “Whoever gets their hand raised – which will be me – I think they’re going to solidify themselves as a true No. 1 contender or line themselves up for a No. 1 contender fight.

“T.J. has been talking about fighting ‘Mighty Mouse.’ If that happens, that’s going to really hold up the division all over again. There’s a lot of young blood, new faces for T.J. to challenge. He hasn’t yet cleared out this division. I think he should stay put, do his job as a champion and fight the guys who are the true No. 1 contenders at this weight class. You’ve got Jimmie Rivera in the hunt. You’ve got Raphael Assuncao in the hunt, who Marlon and I both lost to via split decision. … You’ve got (John) Lineker if he gets the win over Rivera. … Dominick Cruz’s arm is broken, and Cody just came off a knockout loss to T.J., so it’s really a who’s who. It’s kind of a pick ’em.”

Of course, before he can even think about Dillashaw, Sterling has to get past Moraes, who has gone 1-1 in two split-decision results under the UFC banner since migrating over from WSOF. Despite the mixed results, Sterling admits his opponent still offers some serious challenges but has simply discovered just how deep the talent pool is in the UFC.

“I don’t really gameplan,” Sterling admitted. “I go out there, and I just fight my fight. I do what I do best. I’m going to bring my skillsets to the table, he’s going to bring what he brings to the table, and we’re just going to have to figure this (expletive) out.

“He’s a great leg kicker. He’s good off his back. He’s good on top. I think it’s just going to be a matter of will – who’s going to have the most heart when we go out there, and I think that guy is going to be me.”

Sterling carries back-to-back wins over Renan Barao and Augusto Mendes into the matchup, righting the ship after suffering the first (and to date, only) losses of his career in a pair of split-decision results to Assuncao and Bryan Caraway. But with momentum now swinging in his direction, Sterling believes it’s his time to shine.

Sterling currently sits at No. 12 in the latest USA TODAY Sports/MMAjunkie MMA bantamweight rankings, while Moraes sits at No. 6. Sterling knows what’s at stake in the matchup and knows if his opinion on Dillashaw’s next move is going to matter at all, he has to prove victorious on Saturday night.

“I’m just going to fight, wherever this fight goes,” Sterling said. “If he tries to go for that patented knee-tap, Frankie Edgar, if the fight goes to the ground, I’m no stranger to fighting off my back. I will be slashing up elbows, I will be throwing up submissions, and I will be kicking like a mule, so if he wants to take it there, we can take it there. If he wants to stand up and fight, we can stand up and fight.

“I’m willing to die in there, so bring it.”

To hear more from Sterling, check out the video above.

And for more on UFC Fight Night 123, check out the UFC Rumors section of the site.

Filed under: Featured, News, UFC, Videos

Source: USA Today – MMA Junkie

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