After neck surgery, a failed booking at UFC 267, and over a year on the sidelines, Sterling is finally set to return to action and defend the 135-pound gold for the very first time.
Given how “Funk Master” won the belt, a fourth-round disqualification for Yan in a fight the Russian was well on the way to winning, a rematch with “No Mercy’ has always been inevitable.
With Yan’s interim title victory over Cory Sandhagen last October, the April 9 co-main event now has the added excitement of unification status attached to it.
While Sterling’s reign was immediately disputed and put down by some in the MMA community, the addition of an interim title to Yan’s locker has only added to the efforts of those looking to delegitimize the champ, many of whom brand Yan the real bantamweight titleholder.
But despite having the chance to cement himself as the 135-pound king and firmly establish champion status as part of his legacy, Sterling sees the rematch as for one thing and one thing only, a piece of metal.
Sterling: The Only Thing On The Line Is A Piece Of Metal
During a recent video uploaded to his YouTube channel, Sterling discussed the narratives heading into his opening title defense in Jacksonville, Florida. While many will point to legacy and bragging rights being on the line, “Funk Master” begs to differ.
“I don’t think anything’s on the line other than a piece of metal,” said Sterling. “People can say reputation, they can say all that—career—I don’t think so. At the end of the day, my legacy, my résumé speaks for itself, whether or not some people want to remember that as the main marquee thing.
“Go look at my other submissions. Go look at my rear submissions. Go look at my finishes,” added Sterling. “Go look at how I shut guys down. At the end of the day, I just gotta go out there and perform and show everything I’ve been working hard at.”
While it’s hard to admit Sterling won the belt through merit, although that’s ultimately Yan’s fault for delivering the illegal blow, his record remains impressive and his talent undeniable.
To earn a shot at Yan’s gold last March, Sterling built a five-fight win streak that included victories over Jimmie Rivera and Pedro Munhoz. Most impressively, the Uniondale native submitted top contender Cory Sandhagen in less than one-and-a-half minutes at UFC 250.
Sterling will be hoping to remind the fans of his talents when he returns to the Octagon at UFC 273.
Do you agree with Aljamain Sterling’s take on what’s on the line at UFC 273?