Renowned coach Ray Longo is questioning the UFC's handling of bantamweight champion Aljamain Sterling, expressing his discontent with the organization's decision to schedule a quick turnaround for his fighter.
Sterling, fresh off a hard-fought victory against Henry Cejudo at UFC 288, is set to defend his title against Sean O'Malley in the main event of UFC 292 on August 19th in Boston, a mere three months after his last bout.
Longo, who has been an instrumental figure in Sterling's career, believes that the UFC's offer for such a hasty fight is unfair to his fighter, who had initially requested more time to recover. Speaking on the 'Anik and Florian' Podcast, Longo expressed his concerns about the situation, highlighting the treatment of other champions as well.
“To me, in business and even down here, you know what people like, consistency. Like if I come in here, everybody pays $200 hundred a month, and then they’re walking around the gym, and someone says no, he only charges me $75. That’s not good, you know what I mean? It’s got to be consistent. That’s why I said we’re giving examples where It seems like favoritism almost, you know.”
Drawing attention to lightweight champion Islam Makhachev, who successfully defended his title against Alexander Volkanovski at UFC 284 in February, Longo pointed out the significant gap between Makhachev's fights. The lightweight champion's next title defense is expected to take place at UFC 294 on October 22nd in Abu Dhabi, giving him a much longer break between fights compared to Sterling.
“I think it’s the inconsistency of well (Islam) Makhachev hasn’t fought in a year, why are you forcing (Aljamain Sterling) to fight in two months like that’s where I have a problem. I like fairness, and I like the transparency of knowing everybody’s going the same thing. Like if Dana wanted to turn everybody around every two months, then that’s it, that’s what you signed up for. This is their rule. It’s their company. He built it up. He gets to call the shots, but to do one thing one time and not the other time, I think that’s where it gets a little sticky for me.”
Longo's frustration with the UFC's scheduling decisions suggests a sense of favoritism and inconsistency in the organization's practices. He believes that the disparity in treatment between champions raises questions about fairness and equality within the sport.
As fans eagerly await the Sterling vs. O'Malley clash this summer, the controversy surrounding the quick turnaround for the bantamweight champion only adds to the anticipation. The outcome of this fight will not only impact Sterling's career but may also shed light on the larger issue of how the UFC handles its fighters, particularly champions, in terms of scheduling and recovery time.
Whether or not one agrees with Longo's assessment, his concerns raise important questions about the welfare and fair treatment of athletes in the highly competitive world of mixed martial arts.