Sterling (23-4 MMA, 15-4 UFC) lost his bantamweight title to Sean O’Malley at UFC 292 in August. Although he’s campaigning for a rematch, Sterling had teased a potential move to featherweight in the past, and that’s what Sonnen suggests he should do.
Sterling’s idea for a move to 145 pounds was to become dual champion. But now that he’s no longer 135-pound champ, Sonnen likes the suggestion of Holloway (25-7 MMA, 21-7 UFC) that he heard in a recent Q&A on Sterling’s YouTube channel. He sees Holloway as the perfect fight to launch himself to the upper echelon of the division.
“I don’t think the change to 145 should have been affected by passing the belt at 135,” Sonnen said on his YouTube channel. “Because he was going to leave the belt either way. Whether he left it in somebody else’s care or he left it vacant and went up, he was going to leave it either way. …
“I love that fight. In fact, I don’t know if there’s an Aljo fight I would rather see. I’m an advocate for history prevailing and Aljo getting a rematch against Sean, but I don’t know that I would rather see that than see Aljo at 145. I mean, that is the pursuit of a championship, make no mistake.”
Holloway’s only losses at featherweight since 2013 have come to UFC champion Alexander Volkanovski. He’s been able to knock off every other contender, and Sonnen sees him as the perfect litmus test for Sterling if he has aspirations of becoming featherweight champ.
“That would be a very fast path to it,” Sonnen said. “He’s not going to walk into 145 to a title fight, he understood that, unless he was the 135-pound champ. This would be the ultimate way to see how you are going to do at this weight class. Just from Aljo’s standpoint, I don’t know that I have been as excited to picture, in my mind, him walking out there and the buildup and the match and how we are going to break this down.”
With UFC CEO Dana White insisting that a fourth fight between Holloway and Volkanovski would be a hard sell, Sonnen thinks that leaves Holloway in a quandary. Sonnen said the idea of welcoming Sterling to featherweight would provide a fresh idea to the division.
“Moreover, what do you do with Max? Max is in a wildly confusing position,” Sonnen said.
“He is the ultimate gatekeeper,” Sonnen continued. “There has never been a gatekeeper as dominant as Max. It goes Volk, it goes Max, then there’s a big step down. Some fresh blood within the division, a new match, a new challenge, unexpected pairing, I love it.”