Yan, a former undisputed 135-pound titleholder, has had a difficult 2022. While he entered the year with interim gold on his shoulder and a chance for redemption against Sterling, he’s since fallen to two tight defeats on the scorecards.
The first setback came at UFC 273 this past April, when “Funk Master” upset the odds to successfully defend the title in a rematch with the Russian. Having felt hard done by with the decision, a sentiment Dana White also shared post-fight, “No Mercy” hoped to return to winning ways and secure another crack at Sterling last month.
But at UFC 280, Yan once again fell on the wrong side of a narrow split decision verdict after going the full 15 minutes with rising star Sean O’Malley in Abu Dhabi.
After the result, which caused significant controversy and debate online, talk emerged that the Russian was assessing a possible departure from the MMA leader. The report came from former two-division champion Daniel Cormier, who claimed that the Russian is feeling as if the UFC doesn’t have his back.
But one of Yan’s former rivals has questioned why he’d make such a drastic decision.
Sterling Doesn’t Understand Yan’s “Rationale”
During a recent appearance on Food Truck Diaries with Brendan Schaub, Aljamain Sterling discussed Yan’s latest setback and possible pursuit of fresh opportunities outside of the Octagon.
The reigning bantamweight champ admitted that he was confused by the suggestion that Yan may seek a start elsewhere, especially given how close his fight with O’Malley was. Sterling even noted that after rewatching the fight with a judge’s mindset, he believes “Sugar” was the rightful victor.
“I don’t really understand his rationale with that,” Sterling said. “I think it was right after the fight, so maybe he didn’t watch it yet; a little emotional, which we all get. I can see for him, you do all that work, the training, you make the trip, the sacrifices, leaving your family, and the fight doesn’t go your way. In a close fight, you feel like you’ve been slighted.
“But when he goes back and he watches it, if he tries to be outside of himself, which you have to be if you wanna progress, you can see why you lost the fight. Again, I thought Yan won the fight when I watched it in the back room by a close margin,” Sterling added. “I went back and I watched it as a judge. By the scoring criteria, I think O’Malley won the fight.”
Sterling continued by adding some context behind Yan’s poor form, noting that he’s fallen to close defeats against the best in the world and remains one of the top bantamweights in the division.
“He’s losing to the best guys in the world,” Sterling noted. “He beat Cory Sandhagen in a five-round fight, where he got stronger as the fight went on and showed his brilliance, showed why he was a former champion… why he’s a threat to anybody in this division and the world.”
Since the post-fight revelation, there’s been no additional information regarding Yan’s plans. With that, perhaps talk of an exit was a knee-jerk reaction following another disappointing defeat.
If not, the likes of ONE Championship and the PFL will be circling soon enough…
Do you think Petr Yan is really considering leaving the UFC?
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