“You all know that [Sterling] just ran away like a sneaky coward,” said Yan in a selfie video posted and translated by Russian state-owned media outlet RT Sport. “I am not going to sit and wait for him. I am going to fight.”
As MMA Fighting first reported, undisputed champ Sterling was forced to withdraw from the rematch due to a longstanding neck injury, which had earlier forced him to undergo surgery after winning the title via disqualification in his first meeting with Yan at UFC 259.
An interim title is a possibility for Yan, sources told MMA Fighting, though nothing has been confirmed. The 28-year-old Russian said he’s open to fighting anyone.
“Give me any fighter, top-five, top-seven, top-10,” he said. “Anyone who deserves to fight for the belt and I will get the job done.”
Petr Yan looks determined.— RT Sport (@RTSportNews) September 26, 2021
Same mission. Same location. No mercy. pic.twitter.com/Ptj3sr7agy
Yan was disqualified when he landed a blatantly illegal knee in the fourth round of a fight he was winning on two of three judges’ scorecards after three rounds. Yan said he didn’t mean to throw an illegal strike and admitted making a mistake by not recognizing Sterling was a downed fighter.
Before and after the fight, Sterling and Yan have continued to trade insults on social media and in interviews. Meanwhile, Sterling has been heavily criticized for not continuing the fight after taking the illegal shot.
Sterling defended his actions at UFC 259 and said he is done trying to justify what happened. He initially balked at an immediate rematch with Yan, saying the fighter should have been suspended for his actions, but later agreed to the UFC 267 date because he was “not looking to get in a pissing war” with UFC President Dana White, he told MMA Junkie.
In July, Sterling said his neck injury was improving after surgery and welcomed the chance to have the last word with Yan, whom he called “a pretty sh*tty person outside of the sport.”
So far, the UFC has yet to confirm Sterling’s withdrawal and the promotion’s plans for a co-main event replacement at UFC 267.