The champ is in the building.
UFC Bantamweight title holder and Uniondale native Aljamain Sterling was back on the island on Thursday. He was at LAW MMA in Garden City prepping for his upcoming title defense fight Oct. 22.
Sterling (21-3) will be taking on T.J. Dillashaw (18-4) in a co-main match in Abu Dhabi at UFC 280. The main event is between Charles Oliveira (33-8) and Islam Makhachev (22-1) for the lightweight championship belt. Some are calling it the best fight card of the year.
Sterling is prepping the only way he knows how: hitting the gym hard.
And he told greaterlongisland.com that “training has been really good so far.”
He rolls around with some of the best in the game. One of his training partner is Merab Dvalishvili, the No. 3 rank Bantamweight fighter in the division.
“We’re trying to make it really, really tough [on me] — trying to push the pace,” said Sterling.
Sterling is Long Island’s third-ever champ. The others are Baldwin’s Chris Weidman (middleweight, from 2013-15) and East Meadow’s Matt Serra (welterweight, from 2007-08).
Sterling, nicknamed the Human Backpack for his ability to gain back control on opponents, earning his belt in 2021 in a controversial way. He was hit with an illegal knee by Petr Yan and won by a disqualification; it was first time that’s ever happened in a UFC title match. Sterling went on to successfully defend his belt in a rematch a year later, beating Yan by split decision.
Now he his has his eyes set on his second title defense.
“I’m expecting to come home from this fight to a hero’s welcome,” he said. “[I want to show] Long Islanders are here to stay… it’s such a small place on the map and so many talented guys came from here.”
Scroll down for photos from his training session on Long Island. Photos are by Andrew Theodorakis.