Yan lost the UFC bantamweight championship to Aljamain Sterling after connecting with an illegal knee (Sterling was in a grounded position) in the fourth round that led to the bout being waved off by referee Mark Smith and Yan forfeiting the title to Sterling by disqualification. It is the first time ever that a UFC title has changed hands in this manner.
On Sunday, ESPN shared a brief clip of Yan’s cornermen shouting instructions during the fight-ending sequence along with further analysis from Daniel Cormier.
In the clip, one of Yan’s cornermen can be heard saying, “just punch” (this was also audible during the live broadcast). According to Cormier, another cornerman then responded in the affirmative in Russian when someone (it is unclear who Cormier is referring to) asked if Yan could throw a kick.
“Someone in that corner yelled, ‘Yes, kick,’ and then Petr Yan lands an illegal knee that ultimately costs him the UFC championship,” Cormier said. He mentions that his longtime teammate and friend, Khabib Nurmagomedov, heard the instructions being spoken in Russian. Nurmagomedov was at the UFC APEX to corner Islam Makhachev, who was victorious earlier in the evening.
At the evening’s post-fight press conference, Yan insisted that he “didn’t mean to do illegal shot.” He also said that he was so focused on timing a knee that he didn’t understand his corner’s instructions in the moment.
Sterling did not attend the UFC 259 post-fight press conference as he was taken to the hospital according to UFC President Dana White. White said he would like a rematch between Sterling and Yan to be booked “as soon as possible.”