By Dave Doyle
Aljamain Sterling was fairly sure he was going to be announced as the winner after his UFC on FOX 24 bout with Augusto Mendes went the distance.
But after dropping a pair of split decisions in his previous two fights, there was still that little seed of doubt in his head.
“I thought I won it. I thought, if I lose it, maybe I give up altogether,” Sterling said on Monday’s edition of The MMA Hour. “If they can’t figure out who won this fight then I just suck at this and I’m going to stick to real estate.”
While Sterling has taken up real estate on the side, he’s not about to become a full-time house flipper anytime soon. The judges correctly gave him a unanimous nod after a strong performance and a two-fight losing streak which seemed much longer was suddenly in his rear-view mirror.
“I hadn’t won since Dec. 10, 2015,” Sterling said. “Long time coming when you think about it like that. It’s not like I never lost before, but, damn, it sure does feel good to be back and still showing I belong on the top of the heap.”
In the process, Sterling hopes he made a point. An idea that he doesn’t like to get hit, which if true would be quite a problem when you make fighting your profession, had taken root.
“It’s just so frustrating to hear people say, ‘oh, he can’t strike, he can’t box, he’s afraid to get hit,’” the Long Island-based bantamweight said. ”It’s more annoying than anything. It’s like, do you think I’ve just been in the training room wrestling and just humping some guys leg along the wall for eight to 12 weeks as a training camp? What do you think we do as fighters?”
The criticism grew after his split decision losses to Bryan Caraway and Rafael Assunaco, which came after a 12-0 start to his career and a high-profile free agency period.
“Those two losses put me in a position where it was, screw this, I need to start the fight picking up like I did in that third round against Assuncao,” Sterling said. “Come out aggressive and look for the finish, and I knew if I did that, then good things were going to happen.”
Mind you, Sterling isn’t convinced his opponents should have gotten the nod during his two-fight losing streak, particularly Assuncao. So he felt a need to play for what the thought the judges were looking for, and on this night, the approach paid off.
“I mean, the Caraway fight, I gassed out doing three workouts the day of the fight,” Sterling said. “That was my fault. He did what he had to, so kudos to him. The Assuncao fight, I thought I won, but it isn’t like I dominated by any means, don’t get me wrong, but when you double up on strikes you should win the fight. But that’s water under the bridge at this point. I realize what scores in fights — people are more knowledgeable about boxing and punches. So I had to switch up a little bit and play to the system and do what I know I’m capable of doing. Yeah, I took more shots than I normally do, but it’s not like I can’t take it.”
Sterling is hoping for a quick turnaround so he can continue building his momentum. He’d like to be a part of International Fight Week in July in Las Vegas, and he doesn’t sound too picky about who he’d like to fight.
“It’s really hard to pick anybody, everyone is booked,” Sterling said. “I know Dodson is fighting Eddie Wineland, I’m going to be there this weekend so I’ll see it live, which will be pretty cool. I’m interested in fighting in two months, I wanted to get on that [Oklahoma City] card (on June 25), but Sean (Shelby) said it was full. Maybe International Fight Week, I’m thinking maybe fight on the first card.”
Oddly, Sterling expressed ambivalence about fighting at UFC on FOX 25 on Long Island’s Nassau Coliseum, citing concerns with the New York State Athletic Commission, which hasn’t exactly showered itself in glory in its first year overseeing MMA events.
“I would love to fight in my hometown, I just don’t know what do to with New York,” Sterling said. “They’re weird with some stuff. Even though I’m cleared everywhere else to fight, they’re being weird about everything, so I don’t know. I would love to, but it’s right before my birthday.”
For now, though, he’s going to take a little time to appreciate Saturday night’s win.
“I did everything that I said I was going to do,” Sterling said. “I said I was going to go out there and be more aggressive, use my kicks, use my punches, use my wrestling, be more aggressive and I want to make it a nasty fight everywhere it goes. I was in the clinch. It was a good fight. I thought I went out there, I had a good beard and I showed I had good hands and good combinations.”
Source:: MMA Fighting