Like most fans who witnessed 19-plus minutes of high-level martial arts action in the bantamweight title fight at UFC 259, Aljamain Sterling wasn’t happy with how it ended despite becoming UFC champion for the first time.
Sterling challenged Petr Yan for the championship in the first of three title fights on Saturday at the UFC APEX in Las Vegas on Saturday. Heading into the fourth round of a highly contested bout, two judges had it 29-28 for Yan, while the third had it the same for Sterling.
The momentum throughout the fourth seemed to be in Yan’s corner, but with Sterling’s knee on the mat, Yan landed a vicious—and illegal—knee that had the challenger badly hurt and, eventually, unable to continue.
Since the knee was deemed intentional, Sterling was awarded the fight by disqualification and the UFC bantamweight title. “Funk Master” had aspirations of becoming a world champion, but as he told Joe Rogan in his post-fight interview, he wasn’t a happy camper.
“Everything I worked for until this point and to f*ckin’ have the fight go like that... I thought the fight was very close,” Sterling said. “I thought I was down two rounds and that’s not the way I wanted to win. That’s not the way I envisioned this.”
After UFC president Dana White wrapped the title around his waist, Sterling immediately dropped it in the middle of the octagon before heading to the interview, which was stopped somewhat short so he could seek medical attention. Sterling was released from the hospital early Sunday morning, his management team confirmed to MMA Fighting.
Although he was badly hurt, Sterling wanted to do everything in his power to keep the fight moving. The entertaining matchup was in the championship rounds where both athletes were digging deep after putting on an incredible high pace.
Sterling, Yan, White, and all who watched the championship matchup want the rematch as soon as possible. While the idea of potentially having another 25 minutes to resolve matters is a silver lining, it doesn’t take away the empty feeling in Saturday night’s aftermath.
“I was trying to continue—even being all f*cked up like that—but I was in bad shape,” Sterling explained. “It would’ve just been ego taking over and just get further punishment.
“The ref told him I was down. I don’t know, man. It’s f*ckin’ bullsh*t. I understand there was some heat, some bad blood, but it’s all rivalry.”