UFC bantamweight champion Aljamain Sterling is on top of the world as he heads into the biggest fight of his career.
Sterling will put his 135-pound title on the line against former two division champion Henry Cejudo in the main event of UFC 288 on Saturday night in Newark, New Jersey. Remarkably, it’ll be the first time Sterling headlines a UFC pay-per-view, and he’s relishing the chance to do it so close to home.
“Seeing that billboard outside of the Prudential centre was like, dreams come true, man,” he told reporters during media day.
“I have a quote that I put on my very first T shirt that I ever made when I went pro. And it says … “I dream. I work. Reality.” And that’s what this feels like.
“It feels like dreams come into reality. (It’s) something I’ve thought about for a very long time. And I never really cared about the main events until I’d seen it like this. I’m like, ‘Well, that is actually pretty damn cool,’ so it does feel good.
“And to see the energy that the staff has put behind it. Maybe it’s not for me to win, I don’t really give a s**t. I think it’s cool either way, even if they don’t think that I’m the guy who’s going to get the job done.
“I like to play spoiler, and what better way to do that. On the East Coast, first champion ever from Long Island to defend back home and just shock the world once again against another former champion. And did you guys know he was a Olympic gold medalist!? I’m not sure if you guys got that!”
Talk about a potential Sterling-Cejudo matchup rumbled on for a while before the fighters had put pen to paper on a bout agreement. Sterling admitted that he initially didn’t expect the fight to materialize.
“I’m very excited about the matchup,” he said.
“In the beginning, I thought it was a joke, because he’s been sitting on the sidelines, just making YouTube videos, and just criticizing everybody after he quit and took himself out at a competition.
“I respect everything that he’s done, but once it became real, when he put himself back into testing pool, then it was something that I can actually entertain, and then the UFC offered it.
“When I went to go meet with them. I thought it was a joke. I was like, I didn’t think he was actually coming back. But they said he was and I accepted the challenge right then and there.
“So I said, ‘If you guys think this is going to be a big enough fight, and that’s going to draw the most eyes for me, then I’m in.’ I’m here to do good business, and that’s what it’s all about.”
Sterling said he is relishing the prospect of facing the former two-division champ, but said he’s covered all the bases in his training camp ahs heads into the bout confident that he’ll turn back Cejudo and send him back to the sidelines once again.
“It’s a good challenge,” he said.
“So, with that being said, I think I have my hands full. But I think the work we did should be more than enough to put this guy back into retirement. I really do think so.”