Former UFC bantamweight champion, Petr Yan has accused recently minted titleholder, Aljamain Sterling of playing up the extent of the illegal knee at landed at UFC 259 last Saturday, which resulted in his disqualification and removal as undisputed 135-pound pacesetter.
Yan, who was attempting his first defence of the bantamweight championship following his crowning at UFC 251 in July of last year on ‘Fight Island’ against Jose Aldo, entered the matchup as a favourite — having taken home victories in each of his prior seven Octagon appearances.
Starting with a usual methodical pace, Yan had a bright moment in the opening round, catching Sterling with a flush straight right hand, dropping the Uniondale native. Beyond that, however, the Dudinka puncher was on heels for most of the frame and subsequent round, with Sterling applying patented pressure and even secured a takedown, which he had previously predicted would lead to a submission finish for him.
Turning up the pace in the third after scoring numerous trips of his own, Yan started to see the sway of the matchup fall into his favour, In the penultimate round, however, the Russian, after a brief interaction with his corner, landed a knee on a grounded Sterling, with referee, Mark Smith forced to immediately separate the two.
Falling to his back in the centre of the Octagon, Sterling appeared to be reeling from the effects of the illegal strike, with referee, Smith calling the Octagon-side physician to assess the challenger, who at this stage had made it a seated position. Informing both the doctor and Sterling how he had told Yan that his opponent was classed as a downed opponent prior to the strike being thrown, the foul would be judged as intentional, resulting in a disqualification loss for Yan, and as a result, Sterling would take the undisputed championship.
Despite immediately leaving the title on the Octagon canvas following Bruce Buffer’s announcement, footage emerged afterwards of Sterling posing with the title alongside teammate and fellow bantamweight, Merab Dvalishvili, which he claims was brought to his residence by friends and family.
Initially voicing his hope that Sterling recovered from the knee, as well as taking responsibility for the shot, Yan then labelled the New York native a “clown” on his official Instagram account in response to the pictures posted.
Speaking with ESPN MMA reporter, Ariel Helwani recently, Yan told how he believes Sterling made the most of the injury when he knew the championship would change hands as a result of a disqualification.
“The moment [when the knee landed] I still didn’t realise I did something illegal,” Yan said. “I was trying to understand what was going on. Then I saw the tape and I saw in this moment the doctor come into the cage and the referee talking to the doctor and referee saying to the doctor that this knee was illegal and he’s going to disqualify me and Aljamain (Sterling) was just sitting right next to them.”
“[Sterling] was hearing what the referee was saying to the doctor and after that, we can see Aljamain start to feel worse and worse every second,” Yan said. “So he started to lie on the ground and I don’t know what happened.”
“You can see, the first few moments after the knee landed he was trying to recover,” Yan explained. “But then, I feel like he started to exaggerate, he started (to act) because he heard what the referee said. I feel like he could have continued. It was his choice not to, but I feel like he could’ve continued.”
Yan then explained how he believes Sterling was “very aware” of the situation, despite claims that he couldn’t remember.
“First he (Sterling) claims he doesn’t remember what happened then he starts explaining what happened,” Yan said, “Then he’s doing an interview after the fight, [explaining] what was going on, so to me it’s obvious he was very aware of what’s going on, of what he’s doing and it was his decision to not continue — to get a disqualification win.” (BJPENN.com)
Both have openly detailed how they are interested in an immediate rematch this summer, with Yan hopeful of regaining his championship, with Sterling becoming the first champion in promotional history to win the title via disqualification.