UFC star Aljamain Sterling returns to his roots at Abu Dhabi Extreme Championship

Former bantamweight champion meets rising MMA star Chase Hooper at Mubadala Arena

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Aljamain Sterling is shifting his focus from his professional mixed martial arts career of more than 13 years to compete in a grappling contest at the Abu Dhabi Extreme Championship (ADXC) – a new event that brings renowned martial arts fighters to the cage to compete in a variety of combat sports.

The former UFC bantamweight champion meets fellow American Chase Hooper in a No Gi match in the main card of the ADXC-2 at the Mubadala Arena at Zayed Sports City on Friday.

Sterling lost his UFC title to Sean O’Malley at UFC 292 in Boston in August, thus ending his nine-fight win streak in the promotion that also included three successful title defences.

One of those title defences included a TKO victory over TJ Dillashaw at UFC 280 in Abu Dhabi in October 2022.

While Sterling, 34, is still aiming for another shot at the title, he found the challenge of a new grappling contest against a taller and heavier opponent, who is also 10 years his junior, too alluring to turn down.

“Hopefully my opponent [Hooper] is a willing dance partner and we put on a show for the fans in the main event,” Sterling told The National.

“I’m looking forward to competing against another tough dude, another tough fighter, and we’re going to see how good his grappling is.

“Of course, I’m going up a weight class [from bantamweight to lightweight]. He just went up a weight class [in MMA]. And so, that’s my opportunity to see where I’m at with the bigger opponent and see how I can handle that weight class change.”

Sterling is 1.70 metres tall and weighs 61kgs while Hooper stands at 1.85 and tips the scales at 70kgs.

Grappling is part of Sterling’s regular MMA training and is expected to test Hooper, who will bring his jiu-jitsu expertise to the mat.

“Grappling and jiu-jitsu are part of my training. I had a little bit more emphasis on grappling to prepare for this contest,” Sterling said of his preparations.

“My main job is obviously still fighting. I don’t just stop fighting so I can focus on this. I trust my grappling skills and what it’s able to do for me in the MMA space.

“So just tighten some things up and have some fun. I think the cage atmosphere, that little detail is gonna make things more unique to what I’m really good at. I use the cage really well. That’s gonna be one of my advantages in this competition.”

Sterling has an impressive 23-4 record in MMA career record (15-4 in UFC). However, Hooper is no pushover, holding an impressive record of 13-3, including (5-3 in UFC).

Sterling believes his skills can negate his opponent's height and weight advantage.

“He is definitely the bigger guy from a weight standpoint but I want to test myself for the next fight,” he said.

“Height and weight advantage does matter but it is the skills that are the most important thing for me. I can use the cage advantage a little better and this is based on real competition.

“I’m going to give 110 per cent for a win. There is no punching and kicking, but other than that the intensity going to be high and I’m going back to my roots in grappling and jiu-jitsu in this contest.”

Updated: January 19, 2024, 5:25 AM