The bantamweight title fight between champ Aljamain Sterling and ex-champ Henry Cejudo is now expected to take place at UFC 288 on May 6.
Sterling posted the news via YouTube on Monday. Multiple people with knowledge of the booking, who wished to remain anonymous because they were not authorized to discuss the matter publicly, confirmed to MMA Fighting that verbal agreements are in place for the matchup with contracts expected to be finalized shortly.
” I can’t wait to see this matchup because I believe that there are two men that will not back down and I think the wrestling may cancel each other out. We’ll then see if I am able to drag-doll him, Sterling stated on Monday. “We’re going to figure it out in the first five minutes, and from there, we’ll figure out if we want to waste a ton of energy grappling, or do we want to put [our fists] to the test and show the world what high-level grapplers can actually do when it comes to striking.
” I know that you were all impressed by [Kamaru] Usman against Colby Covington. That was an amazing fight and I wouldn’t be surprised if the result is identical. … Henry, I cannot wait for the challenge, and I know, and I hope, you can’t wait to fight me as well.”
The fight card order for UFC 288 has not been confirmed, and a city and venue for the ESPN+ pay-per-view has yet to be announced. The fight card will also feature a lightweight match between Charles Oliveira (ex-champ) and Beneil Dariush.
Sterling, who at UFC 280 defended the bantamweight title a second time with a win over T.J. Dillashaw, initially was targeted to face Cejudo at UFC 287 on April 8, but the champ’s health threatened to delay the bout. A torn bicep didn’t require surgery for Sterling, but it did require the matchup to be pushed back to early summer. Early this month, he said May was the likely timeframe for facing the former two-division champ, who stepped away from the sport after defending the bantamweight title at UFC 249.
“It’s kind of crazy how everything kind of comes full circle,” Sterling said earlier this month. After the fight, it was clear that I suffered injuries before I entered the fight. Then, the T.J. [Dillashaw] fight really kicked things off. Then I knew [stem cell treatments at] bioXccelerators are going to be very good. I’m very optimistic about that and I think it’s going to get me back to 100 percent so I can compete against a tough competitor like Triple Zero and remind him that he should have stayed retired.”
Cejudo, an Olympic gold medalist wrestler, will return to the octagon just three days from the anniversary of his previous octagon appearance. The 36-year-old fighter then sought bigger paydays in his decision to step away from the sport, but this past year returned to the UFC drug testing pool in anticipation of a comeback.