Aljamain Sterling brings tremendous upside to the bantamweight division, as does his newly signed contract with the UFC.
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Sterling, the No. 5-ranked bantamweight in the UFC and a free agent since December, re-upped with the top promotion in mixed martial arts, he announced Monday.
After two months of contract discussions with the UFC, World Series of Fighting and Bellator, Sterling said he went with the UFC because of “more upside” on the back end of the deal in terms of fighting for a championship.
“I’m happy with the deal,” said Sterling, 26. “I’m in a nice spot.”
It was Sterling’s decision to fight out his contract and test free agency. Other higher-profile athletes in the UFC recently did the same, including former lightweight champion Benson Henderson and heavyweight Alistair Overeem.
Henderson signed with Bellator earlier this month, and Overeem posted on his Twitter account Monday that he re-signed with the UFC.
“It’s been an interesting experience,” Sterling said of the negotiating process. “I learned a lot. I got to understand the business more. Trying to figure how to best promote myself the right way.”
The easiest way for that is for the Serra-Longo fighter from Uniondale to keep winning fights.
Sterling (12-0, 4-0 UFC) last fought in December, stopping Johnny Eduardo in the second round via submission. It was the third straight stoppage victory for Sterling.
Sterling said the World Series of Fighting had the second-best offer, with more upfront money offered than the UFC. But there was a little more to it than just money for Sterling.
“You can’t put a price tag on the UFC name,” Sterling said. “It was a whole bunch of little factors going into it, and that was one of the huge ones right there.”
Sterling said he wants to be a part of UFC 197 on April 23, headlined by the return of Jon Jones as he challenges light heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier to reclaim the title he had stripped from him.
No. 4 Raphael Assuncao and No. 6 Michael McDonald are two potential opponents Sterling mentioned. And, of course, there’s Bryan Caraway, who Sterling has called out for a fight for the past year.
“If I keep winning, keep doing what I’m doing, eventually my following will increase and maybe I can ask for some Conor McGregor money,” Sterling said, referencing the current featherweight champion and biggest draw in the sport. “Well, maybe not that much. Maybe I’ll go full [Floyd] Mayweather and start throw hundred-dollar bills at the camera.”