Aljamain Sterling

Aljamain Sterling praises “big inspiration” Khabib Nurmagomedov: “I look up to him”

UFC bantamweight contender Aljamain Sterling praised Khabib Nurmagomedov, saying the lightweight champ has been a big inspiration to him.

Sterling takes on Russian Petr Yan for the UFC bantamweight title this Saturday night at UFC 259. Yan is a striker, while Sterling prefers to grapple with his opponents on the mat. In Sterling’s last fight, he was able to take Cory Sandhagen down to the ground, take his back, and choke him out. Throughout the UFC career of “Funk Master,” we have seen the improvements he’s made in the standup, but his bread-and-butter is still his wrestling base.

Against Yan, many analysts believe that Sterling’s path to victory is to take the fight to the ground and impose his will on the mat, just like Nurmagomedov. Although Sterling prefers to go for submissions rather than ground-and-pound like “The Eagle” does, at their heart they are both grapplers who choose to break their opponents with their control and pressure. Speaking to RT Sport, Sterling explained why Nurmagomedov is such an inspiration for him.

“Oh yeah, I look up to Khabib. Khabib’s a big inspiration to my style and helping me understand that, yeah, a fight can be on the feet, but when you’re good at something, stick to what you’re good at,” Sterling said.

“I look at Khabib, and that style is relentless pressure, it’s really hard to stop a guy like that. Wrestling is a grinding mentality. If you don’t know how to deal with that grind, it can wear on you, it’s uncomfortable and it keeps you guessing and it dictates the pace of the fight and the tempo. If he’s not putting you away, eventually you’re going to grab that guy down. Especially if you’re a good grappler, like Khabib or myself. I pride myself on that.”

Nurmagomedov is one of the greatest MMA fighters of all time, while Sterling is well on his way. If he can go in there and beat Yan using a wrestling-based gameplan, we will likely hear even more comparisons between the two.

Do you see the similarities between Khabib Nurmagomedov and Aljamain Sterling?

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