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Aljamain Sterling Awaiting Next Assignment, Willing to Move Up to Featherweight

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Yet another UFC top-prospect that came through the red carpet for the World MMA Awards had a signature high-top fade and a gold rope chain which could be seen from a mile away. The Serra-Longo protégé, Aljamain “Funkmaster” Sterling was enjoying the fight week activities, and he attended the award ceremony to present the nominees for Athletic Brand of the Year.

When we caught up with The Funkmaster on Thursday evening, he chatted with us about the MMA Roasted show that took place a night prior as well as his next potential fight.

“The comedy show was fun. I had a good time. Adam’s been trying to get me to come to that show for the longest. Every time I fight in Vegas he invites me out. But I’m always cutting so much weight on a Wednesday night.”

Sterling told us that other than the comedy show, the awards ceremony and UFC 209 he simply came to Las Vegas to have fun and enjoy himself in Sin City. The mini-vacation had perfect timing because his current ambitions will likely see him in camp sooner rather than later.

“No fight scheduled as of yet, but we’re aiming to get something as soon as possible,” he told MMA Latest News.

The above-mentioned weight cut may soon cease to be as much of a hurdle. During our conversation, Sterling expressed his willingness to move up a weight class for the right fight.

“I’ve already spoken to Sean and Dana White about possibly fighting up at featherweight if it’s something that..makes sense.”

As of this writing, he is currently ranked as the #7 UFC Bantamweight. A move to Featherweight presents several interesting match-ups and with a win over the right opponent he could quickly land himself in the top of that division.

Sterling is obviously staying ready at all times, as he appears to be game for taking a short notice assignment, “Either 145 or 135, as long as I have enough time to make the weight. I told them I just need two weeks.”

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[Exclusive] Demarte Pena talks rematch with Sayed at EFC 66 and coaching on the “The Fighter”

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EFC 66: The Fighter 1 Finale is only two days away now in what is expected to be a historic night for the promotion as they round off their first season of the reality show “The Fighter”. In the finale fighting for a shot at the title and 500,000 rand is Brendan Lesar and Ibrahim Mané. Topping the card though is the rematch between Demarte Pena and Irshaad Sayed fight for the bantamweight strap. In their last fight, Pena walked away with the decision win, however, it was later ruled a no contest after Pena failed a drug test as a result of a tainted supplement.

Demarte Pena comes into this fight determined to take that win and is confident it will be easier than the last. Having worked hard on his overall game, in particular, his boxing, we could see a somewhat different approach to this fight.

“Yeah, the first fight I controlled the fight really well, used my kicks kept the distance and took him down when I wanted to. But for this fight, I’ve improved a lot, especially my boxing, I’ve been boxing a lot, with professional boxers that are both African and World Champions. So I feel that my hands will be a lot better for this fight, I’ll be able to use them a lot better. And I truly believe this fight will much easier for me in terms of stand up and if it goes to the ground obviously I’ll be better than him.”

Following the tainted supplement issue, Sayed has recently been vocal about wanting to see a positive test prior to the fight. Pena did not hesitate in mentioning how he has been tested numerous times leading up to this fight.

“The last time I remember Sayed was just a fighter and he doesn’t work for WADA or SAIDS, so he might just do his job, those people are doing their job. I’ve been tested multiple times so I feel that fighters should just fight and stop worrying about other people’s jobs.”

The Fighter 1 will officially come to an end this weekend, looking back on the show, Pena described the difficulties he experienced at first but quickly grew to like the coaching aspect of the despite it being time-consuming. His overall view of it being very positive.

“Y’know coaching was very cool, at first it was, hard because I train very hard throughout the day and my time was taken up during the show. I didn’t like that as much, but after some time I started to enjoy more. In the beginning, it wasn’t as nice but the exposure was great for me and that it was going to be ultimately something good. After a while, I got to know the guys and they’re really cool guys, I made a few friends on the show so overall it was great”

The opposing team coach was, of course, Irshaad Sayed, who did a lot of talking throughout the season, something that Pena anticipated so it didn’t faze him.

“With him there as a coach I knew he was going to talk a lot, but it is what is, it’s tough sport you just gotta take the shots and give them as well”

A member of Pena’s team, Will Fleury, was tipped to do great things in the competition but was removed early after receiving numerous illegal blows to the head. Demarte agreed with many stating that the fight should have been clearly ruled a disqualification.

“Yeah, the Will Fleury incident was right in front of our corner, I do feel that Shaw should have been disqualified because those shots were illegal but I think EFC only made that decision because Will couldn’t fight anymore. In an ideal world, Shaw should have been disqualified for sure.”

Despite Fleury missing out on a chance at reaching the final, Ibrahim Mané, who was on the same team on the show made it to the final. Pena spoke highly of him as he enters the fight Saturday, believing that if the fight is kept standing it’s Mané’s fight.

“I have trained with Ibrahim for the past two weeks, he’s an extremely talented athlete, very explosive, very strong with very good cardio but he does have a disadvantage on the ground. If he gets taken down him to ground, Brendan will have the advantage.”

Confident he’ll get the win once again on Saturday, Pena is looking for bigger things having accomplished everything he can in the EFC. The UFC being mentioned as what could be on the cards moving forward.

“After I beat Sayed, there’ll be nothing more for me to do in EFC I feel that I have done everything. Yeah, definitely I think the next is to try and fight in the UFC or any other big promotion.”

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Exclusive: Curtis Blaydes on Francis Ngannou: “He’s not the cleanest striker but he is very powerful”

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The last time fans saw Curtis Blaydes in the Octagon was against Oleksiy Oliynyk at UFC 217. Blayes ended up winning the fight via a weird stoppage. In the second round of their fight, Blaydes got up from Oliynik’s guard and threw an illegal soccer kick aimed at his opponents head. Although the kick didn’t land, the referee stopped the fight and had the doctor check out Oliynyk. Oliynyk informed the doctor that he was unable to continue and the referee called a stop to the fight. The fight was ruled a TKO win for Blaydes in what proved to be a lackluster ending.

Even with the fight ending the way it did, it didn’t seem to take anything away from Blaydes’ victory. “No,” Blaydes told MMA Latest. “I was winning the fight. I would of won, anyone who says otherwise is just irritating. I don’t think the weird ending has anything to do with how the fight was going.”

Although Blaydes has moved on from his fight with Oliynek, one man who hasn’t moved on from a fight with Blaydes is new UFC signee and DWTNCS alum, Allen Crowder. Crowder has been calling out Blaydes in almost every interview he’s done so far. The Mebane, North Carolina native first fought Blaydes in April 2015, with Blaydes winning by TKO in the second round. “He’s not worth it,” Blaydes said. “If anyone wants to watch the video of our last fight they can look it up, it wasn’t much of a fight.”

Speaking of former opponents, Blaydes also represents the only fighter in the UFC to have gone toe to toe with Francis Ngannou without having his lights shut off. The Chicago native wound up with a closed eye and the doctors were forced to step in and stop the fight. But unlike Ngannou’s former opponents, Blaydes was able to experience the power first hand without going to sleep. “He has been getting a lot of hype but he is extremely powerful, Blaydes said. “I won’t- I’m not going to be a sore loser and downgrade all the things he does, but he is a powerful striker. He’s not the cleanest striker but he is very powerful.”

Ngannou was able to successfully able to shed the prospect label after he knocked out Overeem and punched (pun intended) his ticket to a title shot. Meanwhile, Blaydes believes he’s shed the prospect label himself after winning four straight in the UFC. “I mean I think so, but I guess it’s not for me to say,” Blaydes said. “It’s up to the audience and the media to say. I wasn’t the one who gave myself the prospect label in the beginning so it’s just up to the people who gave it to take it away.”

After four straight wins, three in 2017, Blaydes goals heading into 2018 remain simple. “To get better every fight, just trying to climb the rankings.”

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UFC 219’s Jimmie Rivera to TJ Dillashaw “Defend Your Belt or Vacate.”

Harry Davies

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MMA Latest had the chance to talk to #4 ranked UFC bantamweight Jimmie “El Terror” Rivera ahead of his fight at UFC 219 against John Lineker.

Rivera (21-1) extended his unbeaten run to twenty when he defeated Thomas Almeida at UFC Long Island in July. Originally scheduled to face former bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz, we began by asking Rivera how the opponent change had affected his preparation for UFC 219.

The only thing that’s changed is the game plan, everything else stays the same. Cruz is more of an irritating fight because he just doesn’t stop moving, but with Lineker, he’s going to stay in the pocket and bang, and I love that.

Recently, Rivera posted a video to his Twitter account of him sparring with the recently crowned bantamweight champion, TJ Dillashaw. He told us about the context of this video, and how the sparring went down between them.

It was 3 or 4 years back. I think TJ had just lost to (John) Dodson on TUF. My teammate Louis Gaudinot was actually fighting Tim Elliott at the time, and we were in Milwaukee so I got to train with (Urijah) Faber and Dillashaw.

I just sent it to TJ to say, don’t forget what happened. I was getting the best of him, and I don’t really brag about it. But he wants to leave the weight class and fight DJ for the money fight, and I want to fight for the belt, so it’s defend your belt or vacate.

After briefly referencing the potential superfight between Demetrious Johnson and TJ Dillashaw, I asked Rivera about his thoughts on the somewhat flawed UFC rankings system, and title fights being put together purely for entertainment value.

It sucks. When I become champ I won’t be like a TJ or McGregor, I’m going to be like Demetrious Johnson and defend my belt against people coming up, it’s the right thing to do. If you want to win the belt and leave the division straight away, it’s kind of bullshit.

Rivera concluded by telling me that although he isn’t looking past Lineker at 219, “the only fight that makes sense after this one, is fighting TJ for the belt.”

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