Las Vegas, NV — Aljamain Sterling has heard the critics. The cries of faker, actor, paper champ, so on and so forth. Following his DQ victory over Petr Yan at UFC 259 earlier this month, which won him the UFC’s bantamweight title, he didn’t even bother posting a photo with the belt to social media.
His friends did, however. And that led to a fresh round of criticism. Speaking to media outlets following the UFC 260 weigh-in on Friday, “Aljo” gave his response, yet again. “I didn’t do anything. I didn’t do anything wrong. I went in there, I fought an honest fight. It wasn’t going well in that fourth round, but we still had another round to go. Even before the failed takedown attempt, I landed two head kicks back-to-back,” he observed.
And then came the blatantly illegal knee from then-champ Yan. Sterling could not continue, and the title became his by default. Critics have suggested he could have continued. Of course, those critics didn’t eat a knee to the face. “It’s a fist fight. Anything can happen. So I don’t really care what people say anymore,” stated Sterling. “They want to say I’m acting? Let me put your head down here, you not look, and [I’ll] just blast you. And you tell me how you feel when you get up. Tell me if you can act that. Please.”
The good news is, “we’re going to do it again,” noted the new bantamweight champ. And having competed against Yan once, Sterling likes his odds in the rematch. Especially, he added, since he wasn’t at his best in the first fight.
“If that’s the best Petr Yan, versus a watered down Sterling, in terms of— people don’t even know. I had my morning shakeout, I ate at 10:30, I ate the food the UFC PI gave me for breakfast, very small portion of food. And that’s all I had until the fight [at UFC 259],” Sterling revealed. “Normally I do the same thing, but I eat a bigger breakfast, and I fight a lot earlier. So I felt very depleted going into the fight, in the back room. I don’t want to make any excuses, but my performance was hindered. And I feel like if I perform like that, still ate his biggest shots, best shots, I like my chances in the rematch.”
Concussion protocols and a nagging neck issue may delay the rematch with Yan somewhat. “I would like to do it sooner than later, but at the same time, I’m going to make sure I go through all the steps I need to go through,” said Sterling. “Because this is only a short moment of time in my life. When I get older, that’s what really matters. When it’s all said and done, this is all going to be over, the cheering is going to stop, and I want to make sure what matters after that is my health and my kids and my family. And I want to be able to be actively involved with that.”
Still, the rematch will arrive soon enough. “I think for sure this year. I 100% think for sure this year.”
Questioned about the opportunity to coach on upcoming season of The Ultimate Fighter against Yan — the show does not have any coaches officially announced — Sterling said that he would love it. “Because I think it would give the fans an inside look in how I coach, and my approach to fighting, and I think it’s very different. I think I’ve only gotten to this position in my career because of how much of a student of the game I am. Going back to the drawing board, whether I win or lose, and taking time the really do my homework and get better, and improve at every position.”
“I would love the TUF opportunity,” he added later. “I would love it.”