Aljamain Sterling Says He Will Have To Be ‘Tougher’ And ‘Meaner’ To Beat Marlon Moraes
Hearing your opponent has pulled out of a scheduled fight is more often that not a bad thing, but in the case of Aljamain Sterling, he may well have just lucked out.
Sterling was set to face Rani Yahya on Dec. 9 at UFC Fresno, but when Yahya pulled out with an injury on Nov. 4, the Long Island man was temporarily left without a dance partner.
Thankfully, the UFC quickly found a replacement in Marlon Moraes and facing the former WSOF champion offers Sterling a big opportunity to raise his stock.
Speaking to MMANytt.com earlier this week, Sterling explained how the opportunity to fight Moraes came about.
“Well Jimmie Rivera didn’t want the fight and I’ve been told that he refuses to fight me,” Sterling said. “He turned down me, he turned down Moraes, and he also turned down [John] Lineker so I guess we were all kind of in a weird spot. Moraes wanted the fight and I wanted it so that’s how it happened.
“Jimmie for some reason thinks he deserves a title shot. I think he would’ve earned that if he’d beaten Cruz, but not right now. I mean, who the hell has he fought? He doesn’t deserve it and he will be waiting a long time.”
Moraes trains out of Mark Henry’s gym in New Jersey as well as Renzo Gracie’s BJJ gym in New York. With Sterling a member of Team Serra Longo in Long Island, the two are well aware of one another and it’s all a litttle too close to home for Sterling’s liking.
“Obviously, him being a Renzo guy, the fact we’re an affiliate and that Ricardo Almeida is one of Matt Serra’s really good friends, yeh that meant this match up wasn’t ideal,” Sterling said.
“Both our teams checked to see if the other was asking for the fight and we weren’t. This just happened to be the only fight to make and he’s the only one to accept a fight with me. I don’t have anything bad to say about Marlon. We’re cut from the same cloth so that’s the only bad thing about this fight.”
Both Sterling and Moraes’ teams have cross trained before, but Sterling says he’s always made sure the two haven’t worked out together given they were bound to cross paths later down the line.
“I’ve never actually trained with him in particular,” Sterling said. “I knew he was going to be in free agency at some point and I knew I would be too. Before I went down there, I figured it was best that we stayed away from another.
“I have seen him fight a lot and I think everyone is beatable. I’ve yet to see any ultra impressive performances and he’s beat up a lot of people at WSOF and PFL who aren’t near the quality of fighters in the UFC. I think when he got here he realised that there are no freebies in this division.”
With a number of contenders now floating around the top of the 135-pounds division, Sterling is well aware that a win over someone like Moraes could put him right in the thick of the title talk.
With Riviera allegedly choosing to sit on the sidelines, Sterling believes that he will eventually miss out to the fighters who continue to keep the wins ticking over.
“I don’t think he will get it and I hope he doesn’t get it,” Sterling said. “I don’t think he deserves it at all and he’s got no name value. If we go by rankings he’s got an argument, but who’s he actually beaten in the top-5? How does think he can jump everyone? Because he beat Thomas Almeida who Cody [Garbrandt] destroyed in the first round?
“If we’re going to be real about this whole thing he needs to be real with himself. I honestly think that if I beat Moraes I could be the next time. No one wants a TJ Dillashaw vs Raphael Assuncao trilogy. I’m not saying that won’t happen, but I do think there’s a chance that myself or Marlon can be the next guy. We have big names on our records already and that’s more than Jimmie has.”
Despite a title shot being in touching distance, Sterling isn’t letting himself get distracted. For the minute, all his attention is on Moraes and getting his hand raised on Dec. 9.
“We’re bouth counter fighters so this should be similar to my fight with Assuncao,” Sterling said. “It’s going to be an intriguing fight. It’s will either be very slow or a fast crazy paced fight.
“I learned a lot from the Assuncao fight and I won’t be afraid to take it to the mat. I’m going to stay in his face and get off before he does. I got to be tougher and I got to be meaner. That’s what it will come down to. Who wants it more? Both of us really want this and I think it’s going to be a crazy fight for everyone.”