Sterling dismisses move up to featherweight after UFC 292 loss

Aljamain Sterling’s aspirations to move up to the featherweight division have been put on hold following his championship defeat against Sean O’Malley.

UFC 292 in Boston showcased two title clashes, culminating in a new champion emerging.  Sterling faced the challenge of defending his bantamweight champion status against fan-favorite Sean O’Malley.

O’Malley showcased his strategic prowess by leveraging his reach advantage to the fullest extent. Despite Sterling’s commendable wrestling skills, O’Malley weathered the initial round. The turning point arrived in the second round, with ‘Sugar’ O’Malley seizing the spotlight.

In a swift exchange, Sterling lunged forward with a straight left punch. O’Malley adeptly dodged the strike and promptly retaliated with a forceful right punch. The blow left Sterling reeling, and O’Malley capitalized with a ferocious ground-and-pound assault, securing victory via a second-round technical knockout.

With this outcome, Sterling faced his fourth unsuccessful title defense. Fans naturally questioned his next move. Previously, ‘Funk Master’ had hinted at potentially transitioning to the 145-pound division (featherweight) due to weight-cutting challenges.

“Maintaining 135 pounds is no easy feat. I manage it to sustain my livelihood; it’s my profession. The future remains uncertain. It’s a demanding endeavor. As I age—33 years old—reducing from around 168 pounds, fluctuating between ’65 to ’68, and at times ’70 during off-training periods. This is my natural state, not indicative of being unfit or overweight for a fighter. However, the weight-cutting process extracts a significant toll, and I sense that making the weight class has grown increasingly challenging due to my body’s changes. Time will unveil.” Sterling shared candidly.

In a prior conversation, he outlined a strategic sequence: conquering Henry Cejudo and Sean O’Malley, and subsequently ascending to vanquish featherweight king Alexander Volkanovski. Unfortunately, Sterling’s path has been redirected by his recent loss.

In a recent quote from MMA journalist Ariel Helwani, Sterling acknowledged the potency of O’Malley’s blow, speculating on the consequences had it been dealt by Alexander Volkanovski.

“If O’Malley managed to land that, I shudder to think about what Volkanovski could unleash.” Sterling reflected.

It’s widely understood that Sterling harbored ambitious objectives. Overcoming Alexander Volkanovski’s prowess is no trivial feat. The Australian has triumphantly defended his featherweight title five times since clinching it in 2019.