There’s no question that Aljamain Sterling’s bantamweight title win against Petr Yan in March of 2021 was controversial. For the first time in UFC history, a belt changed hands due to a disqualification — something that did not sit well with some fans, and certainly not with Yan himself, despite his own illegal knee ending the fight.
Even “Aljo” threw down the belt in disgust after the fight, though he has since embraced being champion. At UFC 273, however, the pair finally meet in a rematch over a year in the making — and Sterling (20-3) sees it as a chance to right a wrong.
“For me, Saturday night I get to defend my belt, right the wrong, and my first title defense is Petr Yan. We had a controversial ending, the fight was going his way, I already admitted that multiple times, and people still decided to go over that, and it is what it is,” Sterling stated during this week’s media day promoting the event. “You harp on me, I’m going to do the same thing and just dish it right back. And I like to have a little bit of fun with it.”
In rival Petr Yan, Sterling sees “a phenomenal fighter,” but one not as good as himself. “I think he’s great, but I just think I’m the best. If that’s my off night [in their first fight] and I can have an output like that, and still keep pushing forward even though he’s hitting me with his best sh*t, what happens when I’m on, just like all the other nights?”
“He’s good, he’s talented, he’s got good reflexes, good instinct, his trips are good, but at the end of the day, I legitimately think anyone who hasn’t wrestled before have did that to me that night,” Sterling continued. “People can say whatever they want, we’re going to find out in a couple of days. Either I’m full of sh*t, or this guy really, really just had a nice highlight reel based on a guy that wasn’t fit to fight that day. That’s the beauty of this sport. Thankfully for him, he was dumb enough to give me another opportunity, and this time I won’t let him off the hook.”
If the fight build-up between Sterling and Yan has sounded personal at times, it’s for good reason — though “Aljo” believes it boils down to both just wanting to win.
“I think the personal part is we both really, really want to win. He thinks he’s better than me, I think I’m better than him,” Sterling suggested. “Whether or not after this there’s a handshake, a hug, whatever, or a grilling staredown afterwards, who knows? I just think, depending on how the fight goes depends on how this kind of ends up.”
Watch the full UFC 273 media day appearance by Aljamain Sterling above. The event takes place this Saturday, April 9, 2022 at the VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena in Jacksonville, Florida.