Sterling and Yan met in March to determine who would wear 135-pound gold. The pace was relentless and both fighters had moments throughout the early goings of the fight. Nevertheless, as time passed, it seemed the Russian champion was getting the better of the striking exchanges.
Despite the pendulum of momentum swinging in Yan’s favor, when Sterling was grounded in round 4, then-champion Yan launched a vicious knee to the head of the “Funk Master.” Following the intentional illegal knee, the contest was called off and Sterling was declared the UFC bantamweight champion.
“At the end of the day, I make out from this. I get paid more. I now get the pay-per-view points and whatever,” Sterling said to Helwani. “So in hindsight, do I want to win the belt like that? Hell fuckin’ no. But at the end of the day, I end up doing better than I actually would’ve. I almost feel like God has given me a second opportunity knowing how hard I worked.
I’m telling you, when you see the demon type of work I put in for those last two training camps with my neck still like that, I feel like God kind of gave me a second chance at like, ‘Yo, we’re gonna give you another opportunity to do this the right way and really prove to everyone that you really did deserve to be here.”
Recently, Sterling and Yan were slated to face each other in an Oct. 30 rematch on Fight Island. However, on Sept. 25, 2021, Sterling was forced to pull out of his scheduled title bout against Yan and cited neck injuries as the culprit. As a result, Cory Sandhagen will step in and fight Yan on Oct. 30 for interim bantamweight gold.
What are your thoughts on Aljamain Sterling partly contributing his UFC 259 win to a higher power?