Aljamain Sterling: Dana White was ‘definitely happy’ the ‘golden goose’ Sean O’Malley beat me
Moments earlier, Sterling had lost the UFC bantamweight title to Sean O’Malley. He sought support in friends, family and carbohydrates. White’s sudden appearance caught him off guard.
“It was kind of like, I know he’s probably looking at me probably, just…I don’t know what he was thinking,” Sterling said Wednesday on The MMA Hour. “I know he was definitely happy. How could he not be?
“I mean, the golden goose [O’Malley] won in a fight matchup that he legitimately, I hate saying that because then it sounds like I’m discredited guy, but this is the way they say that eight or nine out of 10 times thing, right?”
Sterling chose to strike with O’Malley in order to please the fans and his promoters. He suffered the consequences and lost most of his leverage for the next step of his career.
Even going into the fight, Sterling didn’t exactly feel like he was in the UFC’s good graces. The title bout was announced less than a day after he said he would need time before he confirmed he would be able to make a three-month turnaround from a title defense against Henry Cejudo at UFC 288.
“The one thing with the fight announcement, the only thing I said was, ‘Can I at least get a week to get my exams and my X-rays to kind of just see how I’m feeling?’ Like when [Charles] Oliveira fought, he legitimately said that, and I wasn’t sure if he was saying that to kind of like, f*** with the media, f*** with me, where he’s like, ‘Maybe [Charles] Oliveira has plans for a vacation. I don’t know. I haven’t talked to him yet.’
“I was like, ‘Why can’t you do that for me? Why could you not have done that for me?’ Instead, you single-handedly turned the fans on me for whatever reason. I don’t get it. Maybe that’s the plan, to make the fans hate me. Maybe it’s more buys if they hate me.”
What Sterling can’t figure out is why White continues to take direct and indirect shots at him. In a recent interview, the UFC CEO said his public decisions diminished his popularity despite being a good person in private.
“If there’s anything I’ve said about Dana, like he said, he’s cool in person,” Sterling responded. “I’m gonna take his words and use it with him. He’s cool in person. But then, I don’t know, it’s like as soon as he gets the mic to say anything about me, I never once heard the guy say anything positive about me.
“And that’s the only thing that, if I’m a disgruntled employee, that’s the only thing that it’s kind of a bummer man, because I’ve literally bent over backward and done everything him and [UFC executive] Hunter [Campbell] has ever asked me to do. I show up, I get in great shape, I fight the best guys in the world. I don’t say ‘No, let me go fight No. 6. No, let me go fight No. 10.’ I fight the next guy in line that they want me to fight, that they think is the killer that’s gonna get the fans excited. And I do it.”
In his most recent outing, that attitude came back to bite him. Although he acknowledges his responsibility for taking a chance in making a quick turnaround to face O’Malley, he believes the outcome would have been different had there been more time to prepare. But he also takes note of his success thus far, and he said the payout from the O’Malley fight eased the sting of a loss.
“Thankfully, I’ve come out on top,” Sterling continued. “I just don’t understand why I can’t get a little bit of a little bump like, ‘Yo, hey Dana, what do you think about Sterling?’ [White says], ‘Hey, man, he’s great. He’s f****** awesome. Just like Conor, just like anybody else, he steps up when we want him to.’ It’s not hard to say something like that. It’s not hard at all. And my disgruntled-ness comes with, he has such a cult following that once he says something, the parrots out there, they just hear it, and they run with it, even though there’s no basis on anything.
“Don’t get me wrong. There has been some stuff that I said, I probably didn’t do myself any favors in the public eye media. So I’m not gonna say everything he’s saying is completely wrong there. But for the most part, I feel like I’ve been the most company guy that you could possibly ask for in a champion doing everything asked of him, and going out there and promoting the fight, trying to sell the fight, giving good promos, hyping the fight up, getting the fans excited, I get into the crowd, I do stuff to make it fun for viewers, even if you don’t like me, I get you involved. That’s what I would think that you would want in an athlete and a champion.”
Now that he is no longer champion, Sterling must go hat in hand if he wants a rematch with O’Malley. The other options are to fight bantamweight contenders, or move up to the featherweight division. A fight with his longtime training partner, Merab Dvalishvili, remains off the table despite another White outburst about the two “clogging up” the division.
“I don’t think me losing [in] any way, shape or form clogs up the division,” Sterling responded. “If anything, it frees it up. Again, with the public eye thing, I just don’t know how I do myself a disservice. I just don’t know what exactly. I just need one thing to point out where I could be like, ‘OK, you have a point there,’ but I just don’t see it.”