Could the UFC be on the cusp of creating another interim title? With the upcoming bout quadrilogy bout between Deiveson Figueiredo and Brandon Moreno, the UFC could potentially head into 2023 with all their championship titles unified. The ‘Assassin Baby’ is currently the only interim champ on the UFC roster, after Aljamain Sterling beat Petr Yan back in April and Francis Ngannou beat Ciryl Gane in January of last year.
But it just might be that a new fracture in title supremacy is on the horizon, with Sterling announcing that he will not be fighting for the immediate future, as he rehabs a long-standing bicep injury. According to the ‘Funk Master’ his last two title fights, against Yan & Dillashaw, occured while battling the ailment. Now it’s time for some much needed R-n-R
I fought 2x and did 2 training camps with this partially torn bicep tendon, to keep moving the division for the fans and the UFC.
Now it’s time to properly address it. I’ve stated this before AND after the last fight. When is it fair for athletes to look after their body? https://t.co/WA5S7hZVrW
— Aljamain Sterling (@funkmasterMMA) January 10, 2023
While no next title defense had been set in stone for the longtime Serra-Longo talent, two notable names were on the horizon. Former two-division champion Henry Cejudo seemed to be at the top of the list, with an expected 2023 return from retirement. The other name, former Dana White’s Contender Series product and fast rising star ‘Sugar’ Sean O’Malley.
If Sterling isn’t about to take on either of them, it only makes sense that they could fight one another.
MMA matchmaking is rarely so simple, as fighters tend to have their own plans to pursue alongside the UFC’s schedule and fan hopes. But maybe this time around fate has given everyone a golden opportunity. Shortly after Sterling’s announcement, O’Malley took to twitter to call out Henry Cejudo. A challenge, Cejudo appears to have accepted with his trademark charm.
Sean you like a pack of Skittles that had an abortion. Any time, any place.
— Henry Cejudo (@HenryCejudo) January 10, 2023
Still only 35-years-old, Cejudo hasn’t competed professionally since a 2020 title defense victory over former champion Dominick Cruz. After the bout, the one-time Olympic gold medalist made a sudden announcement that he was vacating his title and ending his combat sports career. In the nearly three years since, the ‘Messenger’ has become a fixture in the MMA coaching scene, notably working with newly re-crowned strawweight champion Weili Zhang among a host of other UFC fighters.
For O’Malley, the 28-year-old is fresh off the biggest win of his career—having snatched a controversial split decision over former champion Petr Yan at UFC 280 just back in October. That win makes the MMA Lab talent unbeaten in his last five bouts, and with just a single loss to his record over ten fights and five years inside the Octagon.
Hopefully both men are willing to stick to this plan and fans will get a thrilling, high profile bantamweight bout sometime in the not too distant future.
About the author: Zane Simon is a senior editor, writer and podcaster for Bloody Elbow. Host of the MMA Vivisection and 6th Round, he has covered MMA and the UFC since 2013. (full bio)
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