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UFC wrestler from LI offers to help train student who had his hair cut

Professional UFC and mixed martial arts fighter Aljamain

Professional UFC and mixed martial arts fighter Aljamain Sterling coaches Uniondale High School wrestling students and trains others, at the Longo-Weidman MMA Training Center in Garden City, August 14, 2015. Credit: Danielle Finkelstein

When Aljamain Sterling saw the viral video of a New Jersey high school wrestler forced to have his dreadlocks cut off in order to compete in a match, it didn't sit right with him.

"I've never seen a white kid with long shaggy hair, which you do see a lot, be told that he has to cut his hair or he can't wrestle," said Sterling, 29, of Massapequa. The New Jersey wrestler, Andrew Johnson, is black.

"I felt for the kid 100 percent when I saw the video," Sterling said. "I could see he looked broken."

So Sterling, a professional mixed martial artist who competes in Ultimate Fighting Championship matches and wrestled for Uniondale High School, offered to help Johnson train.

Sterling on Saturday attempted to send a message to Johnson on Instagram.

"I told him, 'Hey, we'd love to have you come down, come train with us,' " Sterling said. He has not yet heard from Johnson.

The invitation comes amid outrage over the ultimatum that referee Alan Maloney offered to Johnson: cut your hair or forfeit your match.

Johnson, a student at Buena Regional High School in Buena, New Jersey, had been wearing a hair covering, but Maloney, who is white, deemed it insufficient, The Associated Press reported.

Johnson let his locks be lopped off and went on to win his match.

A video of the impromptu haircut posted on Twitter received millions of views.

"Something like that is definitely not OK," Sterling said. "You take away someone's identity by forcing them to cut their hair."

The New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association said Saturday that Maloney will not be assigned to  referee any matches until the incident is reviewed.

Neither Johnson nor Maloney could be reached Sunday.

Sterling praised the student for fighting and winning his match.

"You have to have a lot of willpower ... to even want to compete after something like that," Sterling said. "I think it's super brave."

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