On Saturday night at UFC 259, Petr Yan lost his UFC bantamweight title when he illegally kneed Aljamain Sterling in the head. The blow was ruled an intentional knee to the head of a downed opponent and the fight was stopped, resulting in a disqualification for Yan and the crowning of a new champion. Since then, Yan and Sterling have been feuding publicly over the stoppage, with Yan taking umbrage with Sterling’s post-fight reaction and claiming that Sterling was faking the severity of his injury to get a cheap win. Several days later, Yan is doubling down on those claims.
“The moment I still didn’t realize I did something illegal,” Yan told Ariel Helwani through a translator. “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 was just sitting right next to them. He 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. 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. But then, I feel like he started to exaggerate, he started to (be) acting 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 have continued and what happened after, first he claims he doesn’t remember what happened then he starts explaining what happened. Then he’s doing an interview after the fight, telling 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.”
It’s a big accusation from Yan and one that can never be conclusively proven or refuted, though Sterling has been forced to repeatedly deny it in the wake of his title win. What’s not up for debate though is the illegality of the knee landed by Yan. The strike from Yan was clearly illegal, something Yan admits after having watched the video, however, the former bantamweight champion denies that he intentionally threw an illegal strike, saying he erroneously believed Sterling’s head to be fair game.
“Before the fight the referee was paying a lot of attention to the hand rule, when the opponent is down or not because every state is different rules so he was really paying attention to this,” Yan explained. “That’s why in the fight, in this moment, I was really paying attention to the hands so I didn’t notice that his knee was on the ground. So when his hands were up, that’s the moment that I realized that probably he’s not grounded anymore and I can knee him. I didn’t mean to throw an illegal strike. I didn’t know it was illegal in the moment so it wasn’t intentionally illegal.”
The intentionality of the strike is ultimately the key factor in what transpired here. Had referee Mark Smith ruled that it was an accidental illegal knee, the bout would have gone to the judges for a technical decision which would have resulted in a decision for Yan and the retention of his title. Instead, Yan lost his belt and now the former champion’s focus is on becoming the current champion once again.
“They already reached out to me and asked when I’m ready to fight again and I told them I’m ready in one month, two months time,” Yan said. “Whenever the want to do it. Like I said before, I was punished already for what I did. I already lost the belt, I lost pay-per-view points and all that comes with being a champion but everything happened because the referee told the commission that it was intentional, but I didn’t throw it intentional. Now the rematch is the only logical thing to do. The rematch has to happen next.”
UFC President Dana White seems to agree, telling reporters after UFC 259 that the promotion would look to book the rematch as soon as possible. When it does happen, the build up to the fight is sure to be even more acrimonious than for their first match and when asked if he had anything to say to Sterling, Yan set the tone for everything that is sure to follow.
“I’m not gonna say anything to him but you remember, before the fight he was talking a lot about who is a paper champ? Now we see who is a real paper champ,” Yan said. “It’s him. For me, I wouldn’t even touch the belt like this. Taking pictures, celebrating it is really shameful. I feel like he’s not real. He’s fake. In public he does one thing, throwing the belt away, but with his friends he’s carrying the belt around. I feel like he’s playing around. He’s fake.”
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Dana White talking UFC and Jake Paul with Mike Tyson.
Chael opining on a possible Cejudo return.
Jon Jones party.
Heavy Hands. Reviewing UFC 259 and looking to this weekend’s main event.
Jack Slack. Breaking down the key fights at UFC Vegas 21.
SOCIAL MEDIA BOUILLABAISSE
So Jon is never heading back to 205.
Give it up coach, we’ve all seen your cards, your boy has almost no take down defense or offense off his back. Now you’re just being a cloud trout, if you would honestly send him in there against a 260lb wrestler after that last performance, you don’t care about his well being https://t.co/rsQYNhrA93— BONY (@JonnyBones) March 10, 2021
Pretty good fight if true.
Trying to angle.
Fight has been cancelled due to Hill pulling out. Rematch has been agree. #bearjew #mma #comingforyou #bearjewjitsu #moretimetogetbetter #gutted #ufc #ufcfighter @ Las Vegas, Nevada https://t.co/Fa4WCvPksG— Paul Craig (@PCraigmma) March 10, 2021
I just rewatched. I don’t agree at all. I was actually speaking to Jan and the times he was successful. I had fight 2-2 going into 5 and after watching it again I feel same way. Nothing changed. And btw Jan did bite on a ton of fakes and feints. Izzy didn’t capitalize https://t.co/WTvZ8G0Y4o— Daniel Cormier (@dc_mma) March 11, 2021
Today, after 13 years of training, I earned my Jiu Jitsu black belt. I started when I was 8 years old and I’ve put my life into this sport and it’s given me so much in return. I can’t thanks my coaches enough for the years of knowledge and advice. pic.twitter.com/hNQLlsWRs8— Chase Hooper (@chase_hooper) March 11, 2021
What a night last night was. Thanks to my coach Dan Higgins for awarding me my BJJ Black Belt— Damien Brown (@beatdown155) March 11, 2021
What a journey, blood, sweat and tears. Adventures and stories to talk about forever. Excited about the future #BackAtTheBeginning #blackbelt pic.twitter.com/XQVi6rVdxk
Nasrat Haqparast (12-3) vs. Rafa Garcia (12-0); UFC Vegas 31, Mar. 13.
Thanks for reading and see y’all tomorrow.
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