UFC bantamweight champion Aljamain Sterling is still on the fence about UFC 291 despite Dana White’s announcement. Per the UFC president, “Funkmaster” will be defending his title against Sean O’Malley in Boston on August 19.
Sterling has been non-committal about a quick turnaround. And according to him, he’s still too banged up to make it to the company’s intended date.
Aljamain Sterling says he’s still dealing with injuries
Aljamain Sterling is coming off his third successful title defense at UFC 288 early this month, when he defeated the returning Henry Cejudo on the scorecards. But even after nearly two weeks since fight night, Aljo says he’s still reeling from the five-round battle.
“I’m still injured,” he said in a recent YouTube video he uploaded. “My leg’s banged up. My bicep still sucks. I’m supposed to get another MRI on that. I’m trying to get to this fight in August.
“We’ve talked a little bit about it, and we’re trying to see if we can make it happen. But my leg is still super sensitive to the touch.
“I hope I’m not ruining anything by me saying that, but I did just fight. The swelling has gone down a lot. I could actually do a flex of my foot, but it’s still very stiff. I’ve done PT once in the sauna one time. And I did an ice bath yesterday afternoon, so I think that helped out a ton with the swelling for sure.”
Aljamain Sterling ‘verbally agreed’
White announced the booking with finality, deeming the fight to be official. But as far as Aljamain Sterling is concerned, it is only a verbal agreement.
“I don’t know, we’re gonna see. My shins are super sensitive, like even just me touching it right now. They feel mushy, almost. I could push and make a dent on my leg. It’s pretty crappy.
“I’m hoping the sensitivity is gone in a couple of days, hopefully by next week. And then we can make sure that this is gonna happen.
“I told him yes, verbally agreed. But of course, my body has to agree.”
Even Sterling’s striking coach Ray Longo was left baffled by the announcement. He also isn’t liking the idea of putting pressure on the current champion to agree. In his mind, O’Malley does not have the leverage to dictate where the negotiations go.
“Who could possibly like that? I don’t think that’s right,” Longo told journalist Shak Mahjouri in a recent interview. “It’s a way of putting pressure on fighters…
“You heard O’Malley after the fight saying. ‘Quick as possible.’ Smart. Who the f–k is he to dictate anything?”
Sean O’Malley will fight at UFC 291 even without Aljamain Sterling
From his end, O’Malley is determined to show up on the scheduled date, whether he faces Aljamain Sterling or not.
“I’m showing up August 19th, whether Aljo shows up or they put someone else in there. Daddy’s there. Daddy’s main eventing, headlining for the belt. Regardless, whether it’s him or not,” he said on the BrOMalley Show.
O’Malley admitted that he, too, was surprised by White’s announcement, given the intended date is still three months away and that a blockbuster pay-per-view in the making comes before that.
“It feels real, but it seems so far out. Once it gets a little closer… ‘cause there’s still big fights coming. Once it’s, like, the next big fight — which is weird because they announced it super far out. Dana was just too excited.”
UFC 291, which happens on July 29th in Utah, will be headlined by a rematch and BMF title fight between Justin Gaethje and Dustin Poirier. Co-headlining the event is Alex Pereira’s light heavyweight debut as he takes on former champion Jan Blachowicz. Also part of the event is the return of Paulo Costa and fan-favorite Tony Ferguson.
As for UFC 292, the announced co-headliner is a strawweight title fight between Zhang Weili and Amanda Lemos.
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