Ray Longo pulls no punches on Aljamain Sterling’s ‘crazy’ style

Ray Longo praises Aljamain Sterling for being himself in the Octagon and making it work.

By: Lucas Rezende | 1 week ago
Ray Longo pulls no punches on Aljamain Sterling’s ‘crazy’ style
May 6, 2023, Newark, New Jersey, USA: ALJAMAIN STERLING poses after his win during Bantamweight Title bout against Henry Cejudo at Prudential Center in Newark. Newark USA - ZUMAr187 20230506_zsp_r187_020 Copyright: xJustinxRenfroex

The UFC bantamweight champion may be struggling to gain fan recognition for his victories inside the Octagon, but his coach is still proud of him. Now that Aljamain Sterling has defended the belt three times, tying the record for most successful defenses, Ray Longo feels like his pupil deserves more credit than what most fans and pundits have been giving the ‘Funkmaster’.

It’s not conventional, but it works

In Longo’s opinion, part of the reason Sterling has failed to attract as much attention as other champs is because he has an unconventional style. Should the champion fight in a more pleasing way to the fans, Longo believes that he would have no issue becoming more popular.

However, he also emphasizes that Sterling’s way of fighting is what makes him a successful fighter in the cage. All things considered, Longo believes that his champion just needs to take the good with the bad and not try to fix what isn’t broken.

“When you look at him, he’s not a conventional boxer. He’s not Sugar Ray Leonard,” Longo said on Morning Kombat (transcribed by MMA Junkie) “He’s got his own thing, and I think from the outside looking in, it looks like you could capitalize on a lot of things. And I told this to Aljo: Henry will go back to that fight and go, ‘Man, I could have did A, B and C.’

“He knows it, but he didn’t for whatever reason. But then Aljo would have adjusted to that. He’s not a conventional fighter. He’s his own guy. That’s what makes him Aljo. He’s way harder to hit. They were telling him, ‘Why didn’t you just elbow him?’ He’s moving his head. All of that stuff that looked optically bad in the fight.”

Credit for Aljamain Sterling’s success goes to Matt Serra

In fact, Longo gives much of the credit to Sterling’s continually winning style to fellow partner and head coach Matt Serra. Though he admits it may not be the most pleasing thing in the world to watch, it cannot be denied that whatever the champion was doing worked against Henry Cejudo in their title fight at UFC 288.

For Ray Longo, the fact that not many fighters do what Aljamain Sterling does is something of a boon, since it means that opponents don’t know how to react to his moves.

“I think ‘[Matt] Serra did a great job with the all fours thing,’ has got to go,” Longo said. “It just doesn’t look good. I think optically, it didn’t look good and then Henry kind of said, ‘I couldn’t do nothing.’ I see him do that sh-t in the gym all the time, so to me, it’s normal. To other people, when he’s down there moving his head, it looks crazy.”

“You don’t see that a lot from people on all fours. He’s just not a conventional-looking fighter, and I think he’s always going to have problems if you don’t know what you’re looking at. I think people look at him, he’s dipping his head, they think they could get him and then when they’re in there with him, they can’t find him and that causes frustration for them.”

The win over Cejudo put Aljamain Sterling (23-3) on a nine-fight win streak, which includes victories over former champions T.J. Dillashaw and Petr Yan, as well as top contender Cory Sandhagen. In fact, the 33-year-old hasn’t lost since December 2017, when got knocked out by Marlon Moraes.

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About the author
Lucas Rezende
Lucas Rezende

Lucas Rezende is a Brazilian journalist and writer from Belem, Para. He has been covering MMA since 2012 and contributing with Bloody Elbow since March 2015. When not writing, Lucas also teaches English. In his free time, he enjoys reading, slapping the bass guitar and traveling.

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