Aljamain Sterling felt like he was ‘just there to be a participant’ after being coerced into Sean O’Malley fight


Aljamain Sterling wants to close the chapter on one of his biggest regrets.

At UFC 292 in August 2023, Sterling saw his two-year reign as bantamweight champion come to an end when he lost to Sean O’Malley. Prior to the contest, there was much controversy over the Sterling making a relatively quick turnaround (he had just defeated Henry Cejudo in May), with Sterling himself suggesting that he may be returning to the cage too quickly.

Sterling now finds himself having to relive the talks that led to his UFC 292 loss after clips began to circulate from the documentary Fight Inc., a behind-the-scenes feature on the UFC’s business operations. In the documentary, Chief Business Officer Hunter Campbell is shown asking Sterling to take the O’Malley fight in August, a conversation that Sterling now looks back on with renewed aggravation.

“From that night, I said, I don’t know what he’s talking about,” Sterling said on his YouTube channel. “‘I have no desire to fight right now.’ And that was the whole thing I was saying. I have to heal up and see how my body holds up. We can fast forward, yes, I came into the fight compromised, into the training camp compromised. O’Malley got hurt during his training camp, two completely different things, but still the same. Both guys came into the fight with some lingering injuries.

“I think the difference was, in my personal opinion, the mind set. I think O’Malley was there to win at all costs. I was there to win, but I was also just there to be a participant. I hate to say it, but it’s the harsh reality. There’s a complete difference when someone is on, when they’re in the zone, and you can see when someone’s flowing, everything just went perfect. In a basketball game, in a football game, fighting, wrestling, when someone’s just on. You ever see those guys in wrestling tournaments that end up winning the whole thing as an unseeded person because something just clicked? They want to be there, they’re excited, and everything was just in sync for them. I didn’t feel that that night in August. No excuses, once again, no excuses. The better man that night won.”


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