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35° Good Afternoon
SportsMixed Martial Arts

LIers have common bond as they prepare for Saturday's UFC on Fox card

Uniondale's Aljamain Sterling during a training session Longo

Uniondale's Aljamain Sterling during a training session Longo and Weidman MMA in Garden City on Feb. 9, 2014. Credit: Patrick E. McCarthy

Eddie Gordon and Gian Villante are sparring partners from different MMA gyms on Long Island.

Gordon and Aljamain Sterling are teammates.

All three fighters are in different weight classes. They're at different stages of their careers and lives. But there's a common bond these three Long Island-based UFC fighters share beyond geography.

They've all gone through training camp together in one way or another in preparation for fighting this Saturday on the UFC on Fox 15 card at the Prudential Center in Newark.

"I think it's huge," said Gordon, a Serra-Longo fighter from Freeport. "I think it's everything. It's almost like a comfort zone thing. We'll be in the locker room, we're gonna be able to go through weight cut together, be around each other. Whenever you're with something familiar, it just makes you that much more relaxed."

After all the sparring and pad work and cardio and wrestling and jiu-jitsu in training camp, fight week is about cutting weight. Fighters often drop 10-15 pounds in the final days to reach the limit of their division. Much of that is water weight, plus a smaller caloric intake.

That's an oversimplification of the process, of course. Those moments in the sauna, that extra mile on the stationary bike, they all contribute to ornery.

"It's the same misery," said Villante, who trains at Bellmore Kickboxing Academy. "We're all going through the same thing."

There are media obligations this week for all fighters, especially middleweight headliners Lyota Machida and Luke Rockhold and co-main event fighters Ronaldo "Jacare" Souza and late replacement Chris Camozzi. There's also the job requirement to be on weight come Friday afternoon at the Prudential Center.

Sterling, 25, thought for a moment about the idea of looking across the gym to see teammates and friends working toward the same goal as he has on the same night in the same arena.

"It's cool," said the undefeated bantamweight from Uniondale. "I guess it does motivate me a little more."

Sterling (10-0, 2-0 UFC) had two fights canceled late last year and hasn't fought since July. He moves up in competition to fight No. 7 Takeya Mizugaki (20-8-2, 7-3).

"The performance that I want, the purpose of that is to put the bantamweight division on notice and almost have them second guess whether or not they should sign the contract against me," Sterling said. "That's my mindset."

Villante (12-5, 2-2) won his last bout in June, then had to pull out of his December bout with a back injury. He will fight "The Ultimate Fighter" Season 19 light-heavyweight winner Corey Anderson.

"I'm ready to fight until they tell me I have to stop," said VIllante, 29, from Levittown. "I'm going to try to take this guy's legs off, or his head off, and that's that."

Gordon, a "TUF" season 19 middleweight winner, is in the first fight of the 11-bout card. Gordon (8-2, 1-1) fights Chris Dempsey (10-2, 0-1), a two-time All-American wrestler in Division II.

"Whether it's the main event or the co-main event or the first fight which I'm on, it doesn't matter," said Gordon, 31. "If you go out there and you perform, you're going to be on the main card when they put your highlights on there."


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