Sterling won the UFC bantamweight title at UFC 259 against Yan but not in the fashion he wanted. The Russian was lost his belt after having been disqualified due to an illegal knee struck on Sterling in the fourth round.
The American was later bashed on social media for what many made out to be him faking the severity of the illegal knee. He was also criticized for taking photos with the belt having won it due to his opponent’s error.
The fight was seemingly going to plan for Yan up until the illegal knee landed after he appeared in full control.
Following a high-tempo first round by Sterling, the American looked lethargic entering the remaining rounds, being unable to continue the fast pace set by himself early on.
Sterling spoke exclusively to his channel FunkMasterMMA on when he felt his gas tank ran empty during his first fight with Yan as well as why he felt he let UFC president Dana White down.
“Round two was a struggle,” said Sterling. “When I went from round one to round two and I went to the corner, I saw Dana White clapping with the biggest, cheesiest smirk and he gave me a big thumbs up, (with) Khabib sitting next to him. In my head, I’m like, ‘If he only knew I could do this for days, but today’s just not my day.’ That’s how I felt in my head and I felt like not a big disappointment to him. But obviously, he’s the boss, and it shouldn’t be like that, but I felt like I was letting him down because he granted me this moment and what was looking like a promising fight, I wasn’t going to be able to deliver on that.
“I knew that was pretty much all I had left in that fight in my gas tank and at the end of the day, I was like I’m just going to have to just take my ass-whooping as a man. That’s just what it came down to in my head, I already made peace with it when I made that walk, but in that third round from what people were able to see from the TV I was done, but I wasn’t going to quit, I wasn’t gonna roll over, I wasn’t gonna let him get his hands around my neck and wait for a few seconds and then go, “Okay, I’m done.’ I’m a fighter, I’m gonna fight through every single position. The only way to get me out of there is to take me straight up out.”
The UFC bantamweight champion will be looking to prove all his naysayers wrong when he enters the Octagon this Saturday, being a +340 underdog as it stands. Although more importantly, he will be looking to make himself proud as well as Dana White with his performance.
Bad blood between the pair was surfaced way before their first meeting at UFC 259. Yet the stakes will be even higher for both fighters at UFC 273 as they look to prove why they are the rightful owners of the UFC bantamweight belt a year on from their first fight.
Do you think Aljamain Sterling defends his belt against Petr Yan at UFC 273?