Former UFC bantamweight champion Aljamain Sterling made very clear how he feels about new champ Sean O’Malley, and stated that if the new champ really wants to be considered the best man at 135 pounds, he has to put his belt on the line against the division’s best.
O’Malley stopped Sterling in the second round of their bantamweight title clash at UFC 292 to capture the 135-pound strap, and since then has been heavily linked with a rematch with the only man to defeat him, sixth-ranked bantamweight contender Marlon Vera.
However, as a long-reigning champion, No. 1-ranked contender Sterling says he’s deserving of an immediate rematch. But, even if that fight doesn’t come next, “Funkmaster” said that the only other acceptable outcome would be for O’Malley to face the No. 2 man on the list, Sterling’s own teammate and training partner, Merab Dvalishvili.
Speaking after his victory over former UFC featherweight Mike Grundy at Polaris 25 grappling event in Ebbw Vale, Wales, Sterling addressed O’Malley directly in his post-match interview.
“I’ve got a message for Mr. Sugar T*ts, because he’s still that to me,” he began.
“Hey. Give me my rematch, or fight Merab, it’s that simple. Stop ducking the top contenders, and be a man, be a real champion. Fight the best of the best. That’s what I did, and now you have to turn around and do the same exact s**t. Let’s go!”
Sterling’s impassioned speech drew a positive response from the Welsh crowd, but it remains to be seen whether it will resonate with O’Malley, or the UFC brass, who have seen the huge response that greeted O’Malley’s title win back in August.
O’Malley improved his record to 16-1 with victory over Sterling, and now faces the prospect of having to defend his belt against a stacked lineup of contenders at 135 pounds.
Topping the list is Sterling, with Dvalishvili next up. The Georgian is riding a nine-fight win streak, with his last two victories coming in dominant fashion against former featherweight champion Jose Aldo and ex-bantamweight champ Petr Yan.
Vera, meanwhile, is listed four spots below Dvalishvili, but is also in top form. He also has TKO victory over O’Malley to his name from their clash at UFC 252 in August 15. O’Malley has disputed that finish ever since, and still holds up a zero with his fingers whenever his one loss is referenced during his in-cage fight announcements.
Also in the mix at 135 pounds are former champion Henry Cejudo and Petr Yan, plus Cory Sandhagen, whose only losses in the UFC have come against fighters who held, or went on to hold, the bantamweight title – Sterling, TJ Dillashaw, and Yan.
Official UFC rankings: Bantamweight
Champion: Sean O’Malley
- Aljamain Sterling
- Merab Dvalishvili
- Henry Cejudo
- Cory Sandhagen
- Petr Yan
- Marlon Vera
- Song Yadong
- Rob Font
- Dominick Cruz
- Pedro Munhoz
- Umar Nurmagomedov
- Ricky Simon
- Jonathan Martinez
- Adrian Yanez
- Chris Gutierrez