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UFC 288: A New Challenger Approaches for the Bantamweight Belt

MMA article at Knup Sports

A new contender for the UFC 288 bantamweight belt has emerged. Read to find out who it is.

This week it was confirmed that Charles “Do Bronx” Oliveira will be fighting Beneil Dariush in a lightweight bout at UFC 288 in Newark, New Jersey, on May 6. The superstar fight will likely be the co-main event of the evening, with many rumors pointing towards Aljamain Sterling defending his bantamweight championship in the main event.

Swirling Rumors

Weeks ago, there was talk that the challenger to Sterling’s bantamweight supremacy would be none other than Henry Cejudo, the Olympic gold-medalist wrestler and former simultaneous UFC Flyweight and Bantamweight Champion. The event was sure to be quite the spectacle.

But recent Twitter activity from those involved has suggested the fight may not be happening, and it may be Cejudo’s fault. In a response to Sean O’Malley tweeting, “Can’t wait for May 6th,” Sterling said, “Facts! The turd isn’t making up his mind. Be ready, my guy. This is the fight the fans really wanted to see anyway.”

O’Malley seemed to indicate it was Sterling that was holding things up, tweeting, “As the president of the bantamweight division, I demand a contract signed by Aljo by the end of the week, or I will strip him from his title and book myself a title fight.”

The Funk Master vs. Suga

Whether Cejudo or Sterling is to blame for the fight not being officially booked yet, one thing is clear: Sean O’Malley is in the race for the bantamweight title.

It’s no surprise he may be contending for the championship, as he’s put together an impressive professional resume with 16 wins, one loss, and one no-contest. A fight between Sterling and O’Malley would come as fantastic news to UFC fans, who’ve seen O’Malley rise to superstardom and become one of the most popular fighters under contract with the promotion.

However, his last fight in October 2022 at UFC 280 was rather controversial. In a bout that went the full three rounds against Petr Yan, O’Malley won by decision. Many proclaimed the fight to be rigged, believing Yan won the fight in reality and deserved the decision. Regardless, the “Suga Sean” hype train stayed on course.

O’Malley getting a shot at the bantamweight championship could completely shift power within the division, which would be a welcome sight for many UFC fans.

Aljamain Sterling has held the belt ever since he defeated Petr Yan in March 2021 at UFC 259 by disqualification, the result of an illegal grounded knee from Yan that many believe Sterling embellished his reaction to. Since then, he’s defended his belt twice, once in a rematch against Yan and another against T.J. Dillashaw.

Neither of these contenders is without their controversy, but that wouldn’t stop their fight from being entertaining. Regardless of who ends up being the challenger to Sterling, there’s no question the UFC 288 main event will be a sight to behold.

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