UFC Media Day: Sterling And Cejudo Radiate Confidence
While we're all eager for UFC 288, we have another UFC media day to keep us entertained until fight night.
Before the fight and before the scales, the athletes have to do their things on the mics. Some love it, some hate it… regardless, intrigue is intensified with events like this. Our marquee bout for this weekend's pay-per-view is a rather heated bout between the current champ, Aljamain Sterling, and the former champ, Henry Cejudo.
For those that are unaware, Cejudo never lost the belt, but rather, he retired with bantamweight gold around his waist(and an Olympic gold medal around his neck, in case you didn't know he had that). Since Henry's retirement in 2020, Aljamain Sterling climbed the ranks and won the belt.
Yeah, he won it because Petr Yan got disqualified, but his run since then has been incredible. This fight deserve all the hype it has surrounding it, and more. That goes for this entire card; despite recent changes, UFC 288 is incredible from top to bottom. Let's get into what the two main event fighters are thinking ahead of fight night.
UFC 288 Media Day: Sterling vs Cejudo
The Champ is Ready to Hear “And New”
Aljo is many things — he's a “funk master”, he's a human backpack, he's champion, but somehow, he's still underappreciated. Ever since winning the title in the fashion that he did, he's had a loud group of haters in the internet, Cejudo included. Regardless of the trash talk online and the people doubting Sterling, he still sports a gold fight kit when walking to the cage.
To kick off his time at the UFC media day, he was asked if he feels the respect he deserves coming into this fight, and he gave us a good answer:
“Oh, 100%! This shi*t is cool as hell, man. First main event, they're doing it the right way. So, shout-out to the UFC, Dana [White], Sean [Shelby], Hunter [Campbell], Mick [Maynard], Everyone in the production side… Seeing that billboard outside of the Prudential center was like, dreams come true…”
Sterling continued, commenting on how being the focal point of UFC 288 means more to him than he thought it would:
“You know, I never really cared about the main event spot until I seen it like this. I'm like ‘well, that is actually pretty damn cool.'”
Moving forward, Aljo was asked to explain his feelings on Cejudo being this weekend's dance partner:
“I'm very excited about the matchup. In the beginning, I thought it was a joke because he's ben sitting on the sidelines making YouTube videos and just criticizing everybody after he quit… I respect everything that he's done, but, once it became real – when he put himself back in the testing pool – then it was something I could actually entertain.”
Aljamain Sterling has been very candid on what he wants for his career; he'll solidify his place as the bantamweight champion once or twice more, move up to featherweight so Merab Dvailishvili can take over, and Sterling would then challenge either Alexander Volkanovski or Yair Rodriguez for the featherweight title.
But, there is another huge fight waiting in the wings should we hear “and new” on Saturday night, and that's against Sean O'Malley. Sterling touched on how long he'll stay at 135lbs and the potential ‘Suga' fight:
“Anything is possible. Obviously, I win, and if they do offer the O'Malley fight, I think it would be a little selfish of me not to honor that.”
Henry Cejudo Wants His Belt Back
‘Triple C' will return to the UFC just days before the three-year anniversary of his retirement. He's jumping right back into the title picture with this return. Aljamain Sterling has been a hard puzzle to figure out, and it's hard to imagine that even a fighter of Cejudo's caliber could make this fight look easy.
Regardless, when asked why he chose to return now and against Aljo, he wore his confidence on his sleeve as he responded:
“Because it's easy money.”
Well put. Henry did give us a bit more detail on why he thinks that this will be an easy fight:
“I watch these guys fight after coaching some of the best guys in the world — [Jon] Jones, Demetrius Johnson, Zhang Weili, [Deiveson] Figueiredo, Jiří Procházka — I start to understand my talent a little bit more. And I know there is a window, I know there is a gap, where I really do have to say goodbye… I'm 36 years young and I feel good.”
Even when Cejudo was retired and not training the aforementioned killers, he's been analyzing the game. He was asked to delve into Sterling's strengths and weaknesses.
“Whether [Sterling's] taking the back or going after the neck, he's super quick in those positions. He telegraphs a lot of what he does. I can see it from a mile away. I'm not impressed by his- his distance is off, and I'm looking to expose that. I think he's tough, he's gritty… but I think his technique is flawed.”
Should ‘Triple C' get it done, what's next?
“[Sean Omalley's] next, he's next. I wouldn't mind two tune-ups before I go against Alexander Volkanovski. Sean O'Malley, he's that dirty Q-tip, he's a privileged brat, I think we all know that. And I'm going to hurt him.”
You know, if you were to tell me that one of the C's in ‘Triple C' stood for “confidence”, I'd believe it. Cejudo capped off his UFC media day with telling us what he thinks he's better at than the current champion:
“Everything. In every sense of the way. From standing to the wrestling, to the hair… I just think I'm better than Aljamain everywhere.”