Nobody in the sports world can deny the effects of the home-field advantage on an athlete’s performance. Being able to perform in front of one’s hometown crowd always brings a positive energy that very few can put appropriately into words, but very many can see when watching a sporting event live. In combat sports, this is no exception, as many men often keep it local before getting a call up to other, more established promotions. In the case of a few, though, a man can fight so many times in a state to where it becomes almost like a second hometown in a lot of different ways.

In an unblemished nine-fight professional career, Serra-Longo Fight Team prospect and Uniondale, N.Y., native Aljamain Sterling has captured six of his wins in the state of New Jersey. Of those six victories, five came somewhere on the Boardwalk in Atlantic City. Sterling, who competed under the Ring of Combat and Cage Fury banners before signing with the UFC, can attest to the type of atmosphere that the crowds in and around Atlantic City bring whenever they attend a mixed martial arts event.

Sterling (R) (Esther Lin/MMA Fighting)

Sterling (R) (Esther Lin/MMA Fighting)

“A lot of the people that come there—all the tourists and stuff like that—I think the energy is really, really high,” Sterling told The MMA Corner. “I can always feel the vibes from the crowd, and they always get me pumped up. And sometimes I can’t get up, but when I sit down in between rounds and I get to relax, I can definitely hear all the voices. That kind of gets me excited, because it’s like, ‘Man, I’m one of the guys in here right now, and everyone’s sitting here watching what we’re about to do,’ and that gets me going.”

It’s natural that Sterling will use this energy as motivation to excel when he returns to Atlantic City this Wednesday for UFC Fight Night 45, live on Fox Sports 1. Sterling will have people from his own hometown in attendance on fight night, which will unquestionably give him the incentive to put on a spectacular performance in just his second UFC outing to date. Although he shows a clear excitement about fighting once again in New Jersey, to say that the “Funk Master” is excited does not do justice to how he truly feels about the opportunity

“It’s definitely something you have to experience first hand to know what it’s like,” he explained. “It’s like one of those things people say about [how] you don’t know what it’s like to get a knockout until you get one. So I don’t know what that’s like, but I can only imagine the feeling and the high that you’re on.”

It adds to that feeling that The Ultimate Fighter: Brazil’s Hugo “Wolverine” Viana will stand across the cage from him as part of the preliminary card on Fox Sports 1. Those familiar with season one of TUF Brazil will recall Viana’s penchant for dominating opponents for long stretches of time and breaking those opponents down en route to clear-cut decision wins.

Sterling is no stranger to going the distance in fights, either. He has done so four times. In fact, his UFC debut ended with a decision win over Cody Gibson, and the biggest thing he could ever take away from that fight came in the form of his mentality.

“I know I got that x-factor so that, if I go into deep waters in that third round, I know I can pull it out,” Sterling said. “I got that mental edge and I won’t break, and I think that was the biggest thing.”

Having a wrestler’s mentality helps in MMA, a sport that requires its athletes to evolve everywhere. To train with the likes of UFC middleweight champion Chris Weidman, as well as a crop of other hungry fighters who constantly get to learn from two men like former UFC welterweight champion Matt Serra and renowned trainer Ray Longo, helps to build a strong mental toughness, especially when it settles in that a man may have to wrestle some of these guys for an hour in practice alone. Sterling knew that Gibson would come to push the pace, but he also knew that his cardio would be a key weapon in the fight, so Sterling looked to use that cardio to his advantage.

Sterling (rear) (Esther Lin/MMA Fighting)

Sterling (rear) (Esther Lin/MMA Fighting)

It’s a similar situation against Viana, who owns the majority of his pro wins by unanimous decision. Viana, like most bantamweights, pushes his opponents and does not relent until they break. With the mentality Sterling brings, this may prove difficult for the Brazilian standout to do. Sterling recognizes a good stylistic match-up when he sees it, and he will certainly look forward to the challenge that will come with this particular clash of styles on Wednesday night.

“I spoke to my manager and gave him a list of opponents that I’d like to fight, that I thought would be fun match-ups that I thought, stylistically, would fit my fighting style best, and Hugo Viana was one of those guys,” Sterling revealed. “I had Russell Doane up there, Hugo Viana, and there were a couple of other guys I threw in there. I think there were about four or five guys that I threw in there, and Viana was one of the guys. It kind of worked out; I’m happy about that. It’s going to be exciting, and I can’t wait.

“What I noticed in his fight with Reuben Duran was that he threw a lot of bombs in that fight after he dropped him two times and then knocked him out—I think TKO in either the first or second round. I think he realized that he might have some power, but he was throwing those punches literally from his ankles. So, if he had to throw those punches from all the way down there to generate that kind of power to knock a guy out, I could see that coming from a mile away, and that’s where I think it makes for a fun match-up, because I’m there to do my thing, which is a lot of crazy stuff, so that’s why I’m really excited. I’m going to be able to throw my kicks and stuff, and hopefully we get a lot of grappling exchanges going. I’m not sure what his ground game looks like, so I definitely want to see what he has there, try to put him on his back, and definitely try to beat him up.

“Y’all enjoy watching me fight, man. I bring it. I bring the intensity. I bring a fun, high-paced fight, and I have the mentality of a wrestler. We don’t quit, and we don’t break. We go out there and have fun in 15 minutes, or go home.”

Aljamain would like to thank his sponsors, teammates, coaches and everyone at the Serra-Longo Fight Team, as well as everyone who has supported him for this fight. Follow Sterling on Twitter: @FunkMasterAljO

About The Author

Dale De Souza
Staff Writer

Dale De Souza is a 22-year-old kid straight out of Texas, who grew up around Professional Wrestling but embraced the beauty of Mixed Martial Arts and Combat Sports at a young age. Dale is a Featured Columnist at Bleacher Report MMA, a writer at The MMA Corner.