UFC champion Aljamain Sterling explains why escalator pay is preventing T.J. Dillashaw from fighting.

Aljamain Sterling could be in training camp for a UFC title fight or not. It’s all about perspective. The bottom line is that he’s training, and he’s training hard.

Despite working three to five rounds per day with fellow bantamweight contender Merab Dvalishvili in Las Vegas, Sterling (21-3 MMA, 13-3 UFC) returned home to Long Island this past weekend to watch UFC on ABC 3 at USB Arena.

The promotion finalized Sterling’s fight against T.J. Dillashaw in mid-June, according to MMA Junkie. Sterling indicated that his pen had not yet touched paper as of the time his feet touched down on home soil late Thursday.

Sterling and his management are negotiating escalator pay with the promotion, as he mentioned on his “The Weekly Scraps Podcast.”

“I believe my management has been talking with the guys over there,” Sterling told MMA Junkie at J. Fallon’s Tap Room last week. “Just so people don’t get it twisted because I got a lot of mixed commentary on that. Never in my UFC career have I, or even in my fight career, have I been the same exact thing after winning. That’s what I was saying. I’m not asking for 2 million or 3 million. I’m not asking for anything like that. I’m not trying to change the game, so to speak. I mean, that’d be nice. Dana, that’d be nice. I could be the Nelk Boy.”

Escalator pay refers to mid-contract raises that are frequently included in UFC contracts. Fighters were onboarded at the standard $12,000 to show, $12,000 to win (or $10,000 to show, $10,000 to win if signed through Dana White’s Contender Series).

While the first fight on the deal begins at those rates, fighters will be paid an additional $2,000 for each subsequent fight – escalator pay. As experience grows, escalator pay rates rise to $3,000, $5,000, and so on.

Sterling claims that if he signs on for his career-first fight against Dillashaw, he will not receive the pay raise. Sterling wants to make it clear that he is not a disgruntled fighter looking for more money, nor is he seeking a massive raise.

He simply wants to maintain the momentum he’s built over his eight-year, 16-fight UFC career.

“From what I understand, in the contract, there wasn’t actually an escalator for winning,” Sterling said. “There was only an escalator for challenging and then winning. There was no particular part in the contract that said when you win it, you get escalator. I was just like, ‘Hey, that wasn’t in the contract,’ because if it was, I can’t complain.

I would like to try to get a little pay bump. That’s it. I’m not asking for much. I just want a little pay bump so I can secure myself and my family. I’ve got a lot of people to take care of, especially for my future. I’m just trying to do the right thing”

“At the end of the day, man, we’re in the premiere league. The UFC is the best organization in my opinion. Dana White has done a great job. I appreciate him and everything he’s done. But at the end of the day, the same way he is about the business, I’m about the business, too. So hopefully we can make something happen and make some magic.”

Is he confident terms can be reached and the fight will happen? Sterling is holding his cards close to his chest. UFC 279 is set to take place Sept. 10, likely in Las Vegas. That’s less than two months away.

“I’m definitely in training camp,” Sterling said with a smile and chug of beer.


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