UFC Bantamweight Champion Aljamain Sterling has suggested that Demetrious Johnson’s knockout defeat against Adriano Moraes was “karma.”
Sterling was last in action at UFC 259 earlier this year. Having built a six-fight winning streak that included victories over Jimmie Rivera, Pedro Munhoz, and Cory Sandhagen, “Funk Master” was granted his first title shot. He faced then-champion Petr Yan, who was undefeated in the promotion at the time.
Despite leaving the UFC Apex with the 135-pound gold, the fight-ending sequence wasn’t what Sterling would have hoped for. Towards the end of the fourth round, the 32-year-old was struck to the head by the Russian with a knee. Because Sterling was downed at the time, “No Mercy” was disqualified, and the challenger was declared champion.
The culmination of the championship bout was unsatisfying, and started a debate surrounding the illegal knee. Former UFC Flyweight Champion and current ONE Championship star Demetrious Johnson caused controversy with his take. Soon after Sterling’s crowning, “Mighty Mouse” argued that knees to a downed opponent should be legal. He suggested it would help to stop fighters from stalling.
Having perceived Johnson’s words as an accusation that he stalled against Yan, Sterling was quick to issue a response. And shortly after, in an incredible example of irony, the inaugural 125-pound UFC king was knocked out by a knee while he was downed in a ONE Championship title fight against Brazil’s Moraes. The move is, of course, legal in the Singapore-based promotion.
During a recent appearance on Ariel Helwani’s The MMA Hour, Sterling discussed the fact that “Mighty Mouse” fell to the same strike after the comments he made following UFC 259, describing it as “karma.”
“One thing about that whole faking a concussion: When you get blasted in the face like that unexpectedly in a position where you think you’re safe—and I know Mighty Mouse has given me shit about this, too, and then he proceeded to, I think the very next week, get knocked out with a knee—karma has very mysterious ways of working.
“And I’m not saying he’s a bad guy, but it’s like, you talk shit about a position that you train yourself…if you are in a fight and you take a bad shot and it gets stuffed, and the guy has your head, and he’s planted his hands on it, and you just get up blindly and get blasted in the face, you deserve that. If I take a bad shot and you stuff my head, tactically and strategically, you should wait till you have a clear path to get up safely. Now if you’re gonna try to tell me I’m stalling the fight because I’m trying to get up safely, I think there’s something probably off in your head.”
With the debate surrounding his championship crowning still ongoing, Sterling will look to legitimize his reign by defending the 135-pound title against Yan in October. The Russian has vowed to reclaim the belt, which he feels he never truly lost.
The pair will join the light heavyweight fight between Jan Blachowicz and Glover Teixeira as the second title fight on tap at UFC 267, which is slated to take place on October 30 in Abu Dhabi.
What do you make of knees to a downed opponent? Should they be legal, like Demetrious Johnson believes?