The “Rocky” storyline worked its way into a UFC pre-fight narrative again this past week when fired barista Patrick Cummins was chosen to fight former Olympic wrestler Daniel Cormier in the co-main event at UFC 170 on 10 days’ notice.
Perhaps the movie reference works here, perhaps not. We'll say it does, just so we can relay another one here -- that of Uniondale’s Aljamain Sterling.
On the night before Rocky Balboa is to fight Apollo Creed in the first “Rocky” movie, he goes down to the Spectrum in Philadelphia and stands in the ring where he'll be boxing. He even looks at the poster and points out that the colors on his shorts are reversed.
Sterling did the same thing, only it was in Las Vegas, it’s an octagon, there was no fight poster of him and it was 5:30 in the morning on fight day.
He said he wanted to get the feel of the arena, walking out to the octagon for the first time as a UFC fighter and to visualize the fight. He said he even took his shirt off inside the octagon.
“You’re always sparring and it’s a little different when you’re in the cage with no shirt on,” Sterling said. “I visualized Burt Watson saying ‘We rolling?’”
Did it work? Well, Sterling won his debut at UFC 170 by unanimous decision over Cody Gibson.
But his walkout for the actual fight didn't go as smoothly as he would have liked. Sterling said he was breathing heavy right before leaving the locker room. He said he needed to drink water while walking to the cage.
The bantamweight said he couldn't even generate much saliva when putting in his mouthpiece. Said Sterling before the fight began, “Man, I feel like I’m breathing fire.”