In the blockbuster film, “X-Men: Days of Future Past,” Wolverine and Magneto are pitted on opposite sides of the mutant war. The two have had endless battles leading their followers, and now, that is transferring over to the Octagon.
Aljamain Sterling has branded himself “Funk-Neto” as he prepares to face off against Hugo “Wolverine” Viana at UFC Fight Night: Cerrone vs. Miller. That card takes place July 16 from Atlantic City, with Donald Cerrone squaring off against Jim Miller in the main event.
Sterling (9-0) made his UFC debut earlier this year, scoring a decision victory over Cody Gibson. The Serra-Longo fighter recently talked with FightLine about his upcoming bout.
“I’m working with ‘Turkish Delight,’ Alptekin Ozkilic, who is a flyweight in the UFC,” Sterling said. “He’s fighting on the same card (vs. John Lineker). He has really fast hands and being prepared for that will have ‘Funk-Neto ready for the ‘Wolverine.'”
Magneto is the main villain in the X-Men franchise, but Sterling has built up a solid reputation on the regional scene due to his five career stoppage victories. He also comes from the same gym that has produced current UFC middleweight champion Chris Weidman and Al Iaquinta, among others, under the watchful eyes of Matt Serra and Ray Longo.
As someone who is currently balancing training, fighting and a day job as a teacher, Sterling has relied on those around him to stay on track.
“I have trainers who try to make time around my schedule, which helps a lot,” he said. “Sometimes, I feel like I don’t have a life and that was part of the reason I decided to make the trip to California (recently). I got to train, partially relax and enjoy a new scenery.”
Sterling worked with his more recent opponent, Gibson, on the “other” coast. He’s also done plenty of studying around Viana, who was a competitor on The Ultimate Fighter: Brazil.
“I tend to keep all my secret eyes on each 135-pound fighter that I hear about or see on a card,” Sterling said. “I also watch those 145-pounders because some of them like to drop a weight class. ‘The Funk’ is watching! I asked for him, as well as a few other guys (after beating Gibson), because I feel like my style matches up with him well.”
Viana’s (8-1) lone loss is to current UFC bantamweight champion T.J. Dillashaw. He is 3-1 since joining the UFC in 2012, including wins over Ramiro Hernandez, Reuben Duran and John Teixeira da Conceicao. Of his eight wins, seven have come via decision.
Training with his current stable of fighters, Sterling has been able to feed off the momentum generated by the camp. That, though, is nothing new for him.
“Winning is definitely contagious,” he said. “I’m like my own hype man. I remember my senior year in high school, I would run around the circle of the wrestling mat, slapping myself on my headgear, screaming, ‘LET’S GOOOO!” A little nutty, but it helped me win, especially after a teammate got the ‘W.’
“It makes you more confident in what you’re doing because you workout with those guys on a daily basis.”
You can follow Sterling on Twitter.