Aljamain Sterling ‘A Little Bit Down’ on Performance in Featherweight Debut at UFC 300

Aljamain Sterling is well aware that his victory over Calvin Kattar at UFC 300 won’t be enough to propel him into an immediate title shot at 145 pounds.

While “The Funkmaster” controlled the fight with takedowns and control to sweep the scorecards in his featherweight debut, it wasn’t the type of effort that turned heads, particularly on a night filled with memorable performances. Sterling elected to move to 145 pounds after losing the bantamweight crown to Sean O’Malley at UFC 292 last August, ending a reign that spanned three successful title defenses.

“Everyone’s telling me to cheer up, but I’m just a little bit down on the performance,” Sterling said in a backstage interview with the UFC on Saturday night. “Mentally, from my internal perspective, it felt like if I’m going to challenge for a belt, I need to be able to do a little bit more. I’m my own worst critic sometimes. I know I did well. It’s just I felt like, is that championship material?

“It was my first time [at 145 pounds]. This is the most nerves I’ve had for a fight ever. It’s an unknown coming up. Tough veteran. A guy who’s tough to put away, beat up a lot of good guys. It’s a scary matchup. I wasn’t sure what to expect, and I just wanted to do my best. Thankfully it was enough to get the job done.”

To his credit, Sterling didn’t allow Kattar to unleash any of his trademark boxing. According to UFCStats.com, “The Boston Finisher” landed just eight significant strikes over 15 minutes. Still, Sterling credited Kattar for being defensively sound in defeat.

“I know it was very much one-sided, but it felt like a lot of positions he did good stalling out,” Sterling said. “It was like, if he can stall me there, how much can I really do? Then, it’s like the measurement between taking the risk and losing position altogther and putting him back in a position where he’s more favorable.

“I think his defense on the ground was better [than I expected]. I thought I was really going to be able to open up with some ground-and-pound, but he was able to tie my hands up. That was shocking because I feel like when I’m in those positions, I get off a couple really good shots there and he did a great job defending.”

Though he was able to impose his will through grappling, Sterling admitted that the size difference between Kattar and previous bantamweight foes was noticeable.

“When I stared across the Octagon at him, I was like, ‘Damn this motherf—-r’s big. This ain’t no bantamweight… This is the big boys now,’” Sterling said. “Ten pounds makes a difference. Guys are taller, longer, rangier. That was the biggest thing that I saw. I felt like I was comparable in strength when we were in the clinch, and I didn’t feel like I was outgunned in any of those departments.”

By defeating Kattar, Sterling has already established himself as a potential contender at 145 pounds. However, he is currently uncertain of his path to the top of division.

“Definitely Top 8. I think I’m right in that bubble,” Sterling said. “There’s some guys ahead of me I think I can beat … You just never know, sometimes styles make fights. So it really just depends on that. I don’t know who they’ve got next lined up. I’ve got to take some time, look at the division and see what the next target should be.”


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