Aljamain “Funkmaster” Sterling (9-0) made a successful UFC debut this past Saturday at UFC 170, defeating Cody Gibson by unanimous decision. Just a little over a week before stepping into the Octagon, Sterling was keeping his high school PE students in shape.
SciFighting caught up with Sterling after his UFC 170 victory and spoke with him about how life has changed back home in Uniondale, New York since his UFC debut. “Things have changed little bit,” said Sterling. “I teach PE at my old high school. When I went back to the school a lot of kids came up to me and congratulated me on my fight. Even some staff at the school and people around the community have taken notice, but for the most part things are all the same.”
Sterling should get used to the recognition as his performance on Saturday night raised the eyes of many watching live.
After splitting the first two rounds with Gibson, Sterling dominated the third round to earn a clear-cut decision victory. According to Sterling, he knew the fight was his as soon as he landed a takedown in the third round. “I got him down and I knew for the rest of the fight he isn’t going to get back up,” said Sterling. “After I got into half guard and started to land those body shots, he knew I wasn’t going to advance position. He had to make the first move and good thing for me he did. He gave up his back and I managed to capitalize on the position.”
For Sterling, hearing Bruce Buffer announce him as the winner was just as magical as he had envisioned it. “It was surreal,” said Sterling as he reminisced back to Saturday night. “Hearing Bruce Buffer say it in real life is way better than to hear it in your heard. It was definitely a good moment.”
While Sterling was happy to pick-up the victory, he still feels there was room for improvement in his performance. “That First round I spent adjusting to the canvas. It was slippery and it cost me a few times with my takedowns,” remarked Sterling. “Also in that round I had his back and I lost position while he rolled. I’m usually good with that position and I think if I would have done a better job adjusting with that I might have saved some energy in my arms and ended up with a rear-naked choke in that third round.”
The always improving Sterling is looking for a fight sometime in May or June but wants to analyze his performance further before returning to the Octagon. “I want to watch the fight again,” said Sterling (who had admitted to me that he had already watched the fight at least ten times). “I want to sit down with my coaches, take some notes, see the things I did well and not so well, and just build off that.”
The bantamweight fighter is not shying away from a big challenge for his next bout. “I want Cain,” joked Sterling.
As for guys in his division Sterling has a few potential foes in mind. “I think someone grappling-heavy like a Roland Delmore would be great. It would be an exciting fight with our grappling exchanges and scrambles. Bryan Caraway and Kyung Ho-Kang also come to mind. It’s nothing against them, I just like watching all those guys grapple. I feel like my grappling is up there with the best of the world and I want to test myself against guys like that to see where I’m at.”
As Sterling sets his sights on his next fight, he’s still thankful for all of those who supported him on the road to his UFC debut. “I’d like to thank Bad Boy and Titan Bodywash for taking very good care of me. I’d also like to thank team Serra-Longo for taking me in with open arms.”
As for UFC fans worldwide Sterling has one message: “I’m just a small time guy from Uniondale, New York trying to make it up there.”
If Sterling continues putting in the type of work he has thus far, he will definitely make it “up there” in the very near future.
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