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    HomeSportSterling conquers Cejudo, exchanges postfight words with O'Malley

    Sterling conquers Cejudo, exchanges postfight words with O’Malley

    Marc RaimondiESPN Staff WriterMay 7, 2023, 01:40 AM ET2 Minute Read

    NEWARK, N.J. — Aljamain Sterling won his title fight and then another almost broke out in the Octagon.

    Sterling defeated Henry Cejudo via split decision (47-48, 48-47, 48-47) in the main event of UFC 288 on Saturday night at Prudential Center. With the very close win, Sterling retained his UFC bantamweight title.

    After the fight, the UFC brought Sterling’s next challenger, the popular Sean O’Malley, into the Octagon. Sterling and O’Malley started jawing at each other on the microphone, which was being held by interviewer Joe Rogan. O’Malley told Sterling that he fought like “s—” and “better fight better than that” if he’s going to beat him.

    “I’ll drag your ass up and down the Octagon,” Sterling told O’Malley in response. “Get your ass out of my cage.”

    O’Malley then climbed up onto the Octagon to play to the crowd, but it was right in Sterling’s corner. O’Malley and Sterling’s team got into a verbal altercation and had to be separated. UFC president Dana White was one of the ones holding him back. Sterling then got involved, but the scuffle was quickly quelled. Sterling said he wanted to fight O’Malley in September.

    Meanwhile, Cejudo, who was fighting for the first time in three years after retiring, said in his postfight interview that this could be his final fight.

    “I’m a little confused right now,” Cejudo said. “If I’m not first, I’m last.”

    The fight itself was razor close. Sterling was able to nullify the wrestling of Cejudo, a former Olympic gold medalist in the sport, for the majority of the fight. The grappling was largely a stalemate and both men had moments on the feet, though not a ton of them. Cejudo was sporting a cut under his right eye midway through the bout.

    “Persistence is going to keep on shining and that’s what we did,” Sterling said. … “Look at my face and look at his and you can see who landed the harder strikes.”

    ESPN had Sterling ranked No. 9 in its pound-for-pound MMA rankings coming in. Cejudo was high on that list before stepping away from the Octagon in 2020.

    Sterling (23-3) has won nine straight fights. The Long Island, New York, native now has three successful title defenses at bantamweight, after winning the title via DQ from Petr Yan at UFC 259 in March 2021. Sterling, 33, has the most wins in UFC bantamweight history (14) and the longest active winning streak (9).

    Cejudo (16-3) was on a six-fight winning streak before retiring. The California-born fighter, who lives and trains in Arizona, ended Demetrious Johnson’s record-setting reign on top of the UFC flyweight division in 2018 and then, 10 months later, beat Marlon Moraes to win the vacant bantamweight belt. Cejudo, 36, is one of only four fighters to hold two divisional titles at the same time in the UFC.



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