UFC champions are supposedly at the upper echelon in the company’s roster. Yet, a few of them aren’t getting their due respect, at least, as observed by others who follow the sport closely.
Former title challenger turned analyst Chael Sonnen is one of those observers, something he brought up during a recent video he uploaded on YouTube.
Chael Sonnen names the UFC’s most ‘disrespected’ champion
There are a few names that could fit the bill, but for Sonnen, it is bantamweight champion Aljamain Sterling. “Funkmaster” does seem to be in a constant compromising position, whether it’s with fans or the UFC brass.
For Sonnen, that lack of respect has been going on since the controversial end of UFC 259 in 2021, when Sterling won the belt via disqualification after eating an illegal knee from then champion Petr Yan.
“There are certain things that Aljo would just like to get credit for, and he’s right to do that. I have never seen a more disrespected world champion. And this isn’t new.
“You guys got your nuts in a ringer over Aljo the night that he won the world championship by disqualification. And it wasn’t just you the viewer, the pundits did it to him as well.”
For Sonnen, Sterling was merely adhering to MMA’s unified rules that the UFC imposes.
“All of a sudden, because they handed him a belt that was a byproduct of a rule being followed because one of the very few rules in our sport was not followed, and it turned on him. And he’s never quite been able to straighten that out.
“You set out to try to agitate a guy that seems to be perfect. Seems everything is going wonderfully. Then you got jealous and you wanted to hurt his feelings. You’ve succeeded.”
Sterling not getting due credit because he’s not a conventional fighter
Coach Ray Longo has his own theory as to why Sterling isn’t giving his due credit as a UFC champion. For him, it’s about his fighter’s approach, particularly when he’s crouched on all fours as a strategy to not get hit while grounded.
“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 shit 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.”
Sterling’s ongoing battle with the UFC
Right now, Sterling is at odds with the company because of his uncertainty for the announced title fight against Sean O’Malley at UFC 292. He has begun to demand respect and credit from company president Dana White himself. White, of course, has downplayed it as a ‘ridiculous’ statement from the champion.
As of this posting, UFC 292’s headliner between Aljamain Sterling and Sean O’Malley will carry on as scheduled. It is slated to take place on Saturday, August 19th at the TD Garden in Boston. Set to co-headline the event is a strawweight title fight between two-time champion Zhang Weili and Amanda Lemos.
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