Aljamain Sterling’s impressive list of victories over notable fighters, including T.J. Dillashaw, Petr Yan, and Cory Sandhagen, has been overshadowed by his struggle to gain fan recognition as the best bantamweight in the UFC. Despite his undefeated streak spanning over five years, Sterling seems to lack the charisma required to captivate the audience and win them over, unlike charismatic fighters such as Conor McGregor.
Interestingly, Marlon Moraes, Sterling’s conqueror in 2017, attributes Sterling’s lack of popularity to his lack of charisma rather than his fighting skills. Although Sterling lost to Moraes in a brutal fashion, he bounced back with a decision win over Brett Johns and then went on to defeat Cody Stamann, Jimmie Rivera, and Pedro Munhoz back-to-back, earning him a title eliminator fight against Sandhagen, whom he defeated with a first-round rear-naked choke. However, his subsequent title win via disqualification against Petr Yan caused controversy and turned some fans against him.
Despite criticism, Sterling further proved himself as the bantamweight champion by winning the rematch with Yan and then defeating Dillashaw this past October. Sterling will next face former two-division champion Henry Cejudo in his third fight in 13 months at UFC 288.
Moraes, who is now with Professional Fighters League, favors Sterling in a close match against Cejudo. Moraes believes that the match will depend on who can impose their game better, and that Cejudo must close in and grapple with Sterling to avoid getting scored on from the outside.
In conclusion, Sterling’s lack of popularity among fans is primarily due to his charisma, rather than his fighting skills, according to Moraes. Nonetheless, Sterling has continued to prove himself as the bantamweight champion, and his upcoming fight with Cejudo is expected to be a close match, with both fighters having unique fighting styles and strengths.