UFC 288 Preview: Cejudo vs. Sterling Fight Has El Paso-Las Cruces Twist
This Saturday, Henry Cejudo will return to the octagon after a three-year hiatus from the sport and faces bantamweight champion Aljamain Sterling in the main event of UFC 288 in Newark, New Jersey. For fans in the borderland, Cejudo has local ties to Las Cruces and El Paso.
When Cejudo was younger, he spent a few years in Las Cruces and went to Valley View Elementary school. He was born in Los Angeles, California, and moved to the state of New Mexico with his mother and siblings when he was four years old. The family relocated to Phoenix and that's where Henry learned the sport of wrestling and boxing. But he still holds the borderland dear in his heart.
"I love El Paso, Texas," Cejudo told SportsTalk ahead of his main event fight on Saturday. "I got the keys to the city back in 2008. They treated e like their adopted son. I really appreciate that. This fight is for all you El Paso Mexican Americans, Americans and Mexicans. This one's for you guys."
Cejudo's (16-2) opponent in Sterling (22-3) is entering this fight with eight straight wins and has a 9-0 record in the state of New Jersey.
"I come from a long career of just competing from high school to college, on the amateur circuit, and now as a professional," Sterling said. "This is my first time with that top spot, this fight's on the east coast... so this is a great opportunity for me to start things off on the right foot."
Stylistically, Sterling is known to be the better grappler of the two. Cejudo, an Olympic Gold Medalist, is an elite wrestler that uses his pace and conditioning to dictate the fight.
Co-Main Event: Belal Muhammad vs. Gilbert Burns
In a matchup that came together in just a few weeks, Gilbert Burns (22-5) is doing the unthinkable by fighting in back-to-back pay-per-view events, as he fights Belal Muhammad (22-3) on Saturday at UFC 288. Burns recently defeated Jorge Masvidal at UFC 287 and already holds a pair of victories in 2023. His ultimate goal is to get a title fight in the welterweight division.
"I'm very hungry," Burns said. "I'm more hungry than all the fighters out there. I want to get this title [fight]...I'm lapping these guys and showing how hungry I am. Who else you have? I'll fight them."
Muhammad has won four fights in a row and he's on a nine-fight unbeaten run. He recently defeated Sean Brady at UFC 280. He is also seeking a title fight down the road against Leon Edwards. When asked what will happen when he meets Burns on Saturday, Muhammad told SportsTalk, "I'm stepping out with my hands raised."