To escape the life he knew, the life he once envied growing up, Aljamain Sterling had to isolate himself. Gang life dominated his town. His brother would come home with black eyes after fights, and friends were shot. Some died.
Depending where you went to middle school in Uniondale, New York, you joined the Bloods or the Crips. He stayed away from the gang life as a freshman in high school, but he also followed it. He watched his brother, who joined a gang, and some friends fight. Then his brother got arrested. He had seen enough.
Sterling knew if he wanted a chance at a life -- at a future -- he had to find something else. When his older brother -- one of the 19 full or half-siblings Sterling has -- would go one way, he went another. Back then, he believed he would play football or basketball. Only 5-foot-4, he was cut from the basketball team as a sophomore.
Tim Godoy, a physical education teacher at Uniondale High, was the wrestling coach and a former All-American at the State University of New York College at Cortland. Sterling's strong but small frame made for a good wrestler, and MMA wasn't a thought then. Neither was the UFC and being one of the top bantamweights in the world.