Aljamain Sterling vs Petr Yan II possible for November or December
In a new interview for the podcast Real Quick with Mike Swick, the current UFC bantamweight champion gave an update on the planned redux of his March title clash with Yan.
“I saw Sean Shelby at [UFC 264], and he said it’s not definite yet for Abu Dhabi in [October]. Which is great news,” Sterling told host Mike Swick. “We’re both still training here in the states. Thailand is closed. That’s why his manager told me [an October fight] doesn’t make any sense for them either. We’re both on the same page and same boat. We both rather fight here in the states. And I don’t think we can do that unless it’s either in November or December. We’ll see because the October PPV card is going to be in Abu Dhabi.”
It seems a conversation can’t go by without Sterling, 31, having to give his thoughts about the controversial end of his UFC 259 fight with Yan. In the fourth round of their title fight, the former champion landed an illegal knee while his opponent was grounded. The illegal strike led to a disqualification, and Sterling being awarded the title. The controversy has surprisingly led to greater backlash for the New York native than Yan. An odd ramification the 135-pound champion still doesn’t understand.
“Life’s been good. Obviously, I have the detractors, mainly from Russia,” Sterling said. “It’s kind of fascinating to see the response from them where they rather have a champion who doesn’t know the rules of the sport that he’s the champion of, or he’s that malicious of a fighter and had every intent of throwing something illegal. That he knew was illegal from being told in the back room. Being told by the ref, maybe six seconds before he threw the knee, and having his coach tell him; they said throw the kick, and to him, that was throw the knee.
“I know he was starting to come on in that round, and it was definitely getting ugly but rules are there for a reason. If I was kicking his a** that entire time, he throws an illegal knee, you’re telling me he gets to keep his belt? I don’t really understand that logic.”
Controversy brings with it a big pay bump for Sterling
In the end, “Funk Master” is trying to see the bright side in the unusual moment that placed him at the top of the bantamweight mountain. One of the benefits of the situation is a serious increase in what he will make for his first bout as a defending champion.
“Hindsight for me, I look at it glass half full…I get more money. I’ve never had PPV points before, so this will be the first time I’ll actually get to partake in that. It’s a big fight and I also get a big pay bump as the champion now.,” he said.
During the course of the conversation, Sterling also recalled a 2019 encounter with “No Mercy” that first made him realize the Russian was not his kind of guy, and how women’s bantamweight Yana Kunitskaya was a part of that awkward meeting.
“I met him in Vegas in 2019 when I was going to get my wrist fixed, and Yana Kunitskaya was there too. She was kind of like the instigator in the situation. And he came in with his camera crew, he came up to me and said something like, ‘Why are you afraid to fight me?’ And I was like wait hold on, who’s ranked higher? Who actually beat higher-ranked guys?” Sterling remembered.
“So as far as I know, I dictate where we’re going to fight. I’m not going to Russia. And she was kind of; like I said before, I just don’t think he’s a good person. And his jokes come off; they’re not really jokes. They have like, malicious intent. [He] just seems like a dude I would never hang out with. Maybe that’s just him and how they are in Russia.”
Sterling just recently returned to training after having neck surgery a month after his championship win to correct a herniated disc.
Who do you see winning the UFC bantamweight title fight rematch between Sterling and Yan?