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Aljamain Sterling-Henry Cejudo title bout headlines UFC 288 in Newark

After some starts and stops, the UFC 288 main event is now official.

Aljamain Sterling will defend his UFC bantamweight title versus former champ Henry Cejudo on May 6 in Newark, New Jersey, the promotion officially announced Friday. Cejudo is making his return from retirement after three years away.

While both men had verbally agreed to the matchup weeks ago, there was some consternation this week. The UFC sent out a press release for UFC 288 on Tuesday without mentioning the main event, a rarity. Sterling posted on social media that Cejudo was holding things up and he teased a fight with popular up-and-comer Sean O’Malley instead. Ultimately, things were hammered out leading to the announcement Friday.

ESPN has Sterling tied for eighth in its pound-for-pound MMA rankings. Cejudo is a former UFC bantamweight and flyweight champion and Olympic gold medalist in wrestling.

Sterling (22-3) has won eight consecutive fights and is coming off a second-round TKO victory over former champ TJ Dillashaw in October at UFC 280.

The Long Island, New York native has two successful title defenses. Sterling, 33, won the belt in a disqualification (illegal knee) versus Petr Yan at UFC 259 in March 2021 and then beat Yan via split decision in a rematch.

Cejudo (16-2) has not fought since he successfully defended the title via second-round TKO over former champion Dominick Cruz at UFC 249 in May 2020. The Arizona resident announced his retirement after that fight, but he officially returned by re-entering the USADA drug-testing pool in early 2022.

Cejudo, 36, has won six straight, including stopping Demetrious Johnson’s UFC record title-defense streak at 11 by winning the UFC flyweight title in 2018.

Steve Carr

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