Sterling Recalls Being Ragdolled By “Ninja” Zabit In Training

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Aljamain Sterling solidified his place as bantamweight champion at UFC 273, but even champions have stories about being outmatched in the gym.

“Funk Master” recently made an appearance on The Joe Rogan Experience and detailed one of his early experiences training with UFC featherweight Zabit Magomedsharipov.

“He threw a 360 spinning ninja kick and wrapped the leg around my neck,” Sterling told Rogan. “I close my eyes. I’d never seen a ninja jump at me like that in a room ever. Like, I’m not in shape, Ray [Longo] asked me to jump in there with this guy, I didn’t know who the hell he was, but I felt like I was set up for failure. [LAUGHS]. He’s throwing sidekicks, he’s doing 360 ninja kicks. So I’m like yo, what in the fuck is going on?”

Sterling is known for his grappling prowess, and he was able to use those skills to control Petr Yan for large periods during their rematch at UFC 273. His control time likely made the difference in earning a decision over Yan, but the 32-year-old recalls being clearly outmuscled by Zabit in their initial training session.

Magomedsharipov hasn’t fought since a unanimous decision over Calvin Kattar in 2019. (Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC)

“And he’s a lot bigger than me. I mean, although he (competes at) ’45, I didn’t realize how big he was till he took his shirt off. And he’s doing these sidekicks from both sides. I’m shooting in, he’s pulling me in and hitting me with these judo throws, and I’m just getting ragdolled. I’m like, if I wanted to go up to ’45 at that point in my career, that would (the most) nightmare matchup ever. Like, me and Zabit would not go well. [LAUGHS]”

Magomedsharipov entered the UFC in 2017 and has gone 6-0 with three wins via submission. He last competed in a three-round main event bout against Calvin Kattar in 2019 and won a unanimous decision.

At one point, the Dagestani fighter was one of the UFC’s hottest up-and-comers. He was the #3-ranked featherweight after beating Kattar but has since been removed from the UFC rankings due to his current period of inactivity. Earlier this year the 31-year-old posted on Instagram and indicated that he was pursuing a career in medicine.

Even though it took place years ago, Sterling’s story about this training session will no doubt reignite some discussions about the potential Magomedsharipov had in MMA.

What’s your reaction to this story from Sterling about an old training session with Zabit Magomedsharipov?

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