Aljamain Sterling has sent a stern message to Henry Cejudo: If you want a championship opportunity, earn it.
The UFC bantamweight champion has kept an eye on Cejudo, who ended his retirement from mixed martial arts and re-entered the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) pool to resume his career. The former two-division champion retired following his second-round TKO over Dominick Cruz at UFC 249 two years ago. However, he has remained a fixture in the sport throughout his regular teases of a return to the Octagon at either bantamweight or featherweight.
‘Triple C’ has since settled on bantamweight and revealed that he met with the UFC brass — Chief Business Officer Hunter Campbell and matchmaker Sean Shelby — this past April in an effort to get a fight against Sterling. Both men even teased a potential fight on social media with a face-off at a recent UFC event. That being said, The ‘Funk Master’ does not believe a face-off is enough for his potential foe to get an opportunity against him upon his return. The way Sterling sees it, there is a lot Cejudo has to do before he can be considered.
“Cejudo needs to get back in the pool and actually fight somebody,” said Sterling during a recent appearance on The MMA Hour. “Until then, nobody is going to take that guy seriously. People just laugh at the s—t [he says]. Even though I have respect for him — like people say, ‘Oh, this is staged.’ We’re not staging anything. We had a face-off. We’re showing the fans this a potential fight down the road. What do you think is going to happen? Just not, ‘Oh, we’re hating each other.’ It is not like that. No one ever tries to force that type of narrative. But no one is going to take him seriously until he actually gets back and competes.
“So when he does, the UFC will know, [UFC president] Dana [White] will know and the rest of the world will know that this guy is actually for real and wants to come back and try to make some f—king money.”
Though a fight between Sterling and Cejudo would be interesting, the Serra-Longo Fight Team product shut down the idea of it happening immediately. He compared the scenario to that of Georges St-Pierre, the former UFC welterweight champion who returned to an immediate shot at the middleweight championship against Michael Bisping after a four-year hiatus. Instead of that happening, Sterling suggested Cejudo fight someone like Dominick Cruz first.
Should Cejudo beat a contender like Cruz, Sterling would have no issue with him being next in line.
“He ain’t GSP,” said Sterling. “He fought Dominick Cruz on short notice. Fight Dominick Cruz now. See what happens. He tells me — in person — he tells me, ‘Well, you know if you step in that Octagon, that’s on you. And I’m like, ‘Yeah, you and I both know that. So don’t act like the fact that Dominick Cruz took an opportunity to fight you on short notice doesn’t change the fact of the stipulations and what makes that so different from him actually having a full training camp to prepare for you. It’s a completely different situation.
“Dominick Cruz looked slow,” continued Sterling. “He didn’t look himself in that one and you watch him of late compared to that performance and there’s a significant difference in the way he performed. And I’m not saying take anything away from Cejudo. He performance the way he was supposed to. He was ready and prepared. That was a short-notice fight. Fight Dominick Cruz on a full training camp and see what happens. Then whoever wins that, maybe they get the next title shot because Merab [Dvalishvili] is taking out José Aldo. And we’ll see what happens between TJ and I after I send his ass to the gulag too.”
Sterling goes for his second defense against TJ Dillashaw at UFC 280 on Oct. 22 at Etihad Arena in Abu Dhabi.
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