Aljamain Sterling to Max Holloway after legendary knockout: ‘Stay your ass at 155!’

Aljamain Sterling chose one heck of a day to become a UFC featherweight.

After a decorated nine-year run as one of the best bantamweights in the UFC, Sterling made his 145-pound debut at UFC 300, dominating Calvin Kattar for a pillar-to-post decision win. Sterling hoped a successful night would propel him to the front of the line for title contention in his new division, but then former UFC featherweight champion Max Holloway went out and posted the highlight of the year with his spectacular last-second knockout of Justin Gaethje to capture the promotion’s ceremonial BMF title.

Holloway is now a top contender in both the featherweight and lightweight divisions, and Sterling can’t help but give credit where credit is due.

“I was like, ‘Justin, go the other way! Justin, don’t go to the center! Whatever you do, don’t go to the center,’” Sterling said with a laugh on The MMA Hour. “No, but man, that was insane. I thought Max was winning the fight, and for him to even say, ‘Eff it. UFC 300. Let’s go,’ and to do that — that’s a lot to risk with a guy who hits as hard as Gaethje, and for him to get the better of that exchange was very unexpected. I said in my breakdown that I just felt like Holloway would have the speed advantage, but the guy who hits like the truck is going to be Gaethje, and the volume was going to be on the advantage side of Holloway.

“[But] clean right on the chin, and man, that was as beautiful of an overhand right that you can land tight in the pocket like that. And unfortunately Gaethje had to eat that, and that’s the game, man. The pictures of that, those are going to be some legendary iconic photos. Like, I know what that feels like to kind of be that man face-down, so that sucks, and hopefully Gaethje is OK now. And I’m fans of both of those guys, but that was badass. And now hopefully, Max, stay your ass at 155! We don’t want you back down here!”

With a title shot now unlikely, Sterling, 34, instead pivoted to a potential matchup against Brian Ortega in his post-fight dialogues, though he entertained the idea of a grappler vs. grappler matchup against Movsar Evloev as well.

As for Holloway, the former featherweight champion isn’t paying much attention to Sterling’s advice. In the days since UFC 300, “Blessed” has repeatedly called for a matchup with Ilia Topuria, and even traded shots with the UFC featherweight champ in both interviews and on social media. It’s a fight that Sterling finds deeply intriguing.

“I think it’s a very compelling fight,” Sterling said. “I think Max’s footwork is what makes him a tricky opponent. Styles make fights. Max has got a hell of a chin. Ilia can crack. But the thing is, Ilia just walks you down, right? And this is just my assessment. He walks you down until he gets you close enough to the cage, and then he lets go with that combination and he puts guys out. It’s whether or not he could do that to Max, and will Max sit there and try to exchange with him against the cage where Ilia does his best work — and I think that’s the interesting dynamic of that fight, and to kind of see which way he’s going to go.

“I don’t know [who I’m going to pick to win]. It’s hard for me to say because I think if Ilia’s smart and the striking doesn’t work out, he goes and takes Max Holloway down, uses that elite-level grappling, and that can be the difference in the fight.”

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