The end of March was big when it came to physical altercations. Just within the past few weeks, Jorge Masvidal was arrested for allegedly assaulting Colby Covington outside of a Miami restaurant, and then actor Will Smith slapped comedian Chris Rock during the Oscars in a moment that has dominated online discourse since. Smith’s actions came after Rock made a joke about Smith’s wife, Jada Pinkett Smith, while presenting an award — and UFC bantamweight champion Aljamain Sterling can understand Smith’s reaction, even if he doesn’t agree with it.
“I understand it was wrong,” Sterling said on The MMA Hour when asked about his position on the Will Smith situation. “Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying what Will did was right. I want everyone to understand that. But the past two years for him, to have dealt with what he’s dealt with on social media, and then he has another person that — I don’t know their relationship, maybe he feels that was a friend and it was a low point and it was just enough was enough and he saw what it did to his wife.
“It gets to a point where we’re all human and we all have breaking points, and I think people forget that. You’re trying to tell this man where his limit and where his threshold is — that’s wrong. That, to me, is wrong. You can’t tell me I should feel this way at this time and this place, and I should be able to contain myself at this time and this place. You don’t know what I’m dealing with.
“Again, I’m not saying it’s right. I think he just got to the point where it’s, ‘Yo, man, I’m f****** tired of this s***.’ I think it was just one of those moments. I’m glad he didn’t punch him and I’m glad Chris Rock didn’t press charges. At the same time, I was disappointed with Will that he did that on a national setting to Chris Rock — and even if it was to anybody else, it doesn’t matter if it’s to Chris Rock or Joe Schmo, regular, every day civilian. You shouldn’t do that, but I understand why someone could do that.
“I get it. I don’t agree with it but I get it.”
In some ways, Masvidal’s situation is similar to Smith’s.
In the build up to their fight at UFC 272, Covington repeatedly brought Masvidal’s family into his trash talk. As such, Sterling feels similarly about Masvidal, and he noted the difference in how Covington and Rock have handled their respective situations.
“It’s the same exact thing. You cross a certain line, you have to expect that not everyone is gonna be the same person that you can get away with that with,” Sterling said. “Some people might get somebody else to do it, some people are gonna say, ‘Nah, screw that, when I see you and I get an opportunity, just know I’m taking that opportunity.’ That’s how we grew up in the streets. You said some s*** and someone’s able to catch you slipping, bro, it’s a bad night for you. Probably the last night for you. So Jorge did what you would think he shouldn’t be doing at this point in his life and his career, but listen, some people live by the code, die by the code. I can’t knock him for that. I’m not saying it’s right, I don’t agree with it, but again, I can’t tell him how to feel. I can’t tell this man what’s enough.
“Now Colby’s coming after him in the legal sense, doing the opposite of what Chris Rock did, so you see both sides of the equation here, a different handling of the situation. Colby’s not that street guy. He can fight his ass off, if they were to fight again and he approached him, it probably might end up the same fight, or maybe Masvidal headbutts him and it turns into something else. To each his own. I think it was f***** up, but you had to know that something was gonna happen at some point.
“Again, people do crazy s***. We live in a crazy world. And to think everyone’s supposed to react the way you would react, or the way that you think is the most sensible way to react, that’s why we have people in jail. Because people react certain ways when certain things happen, and that’s just the nature of the beast. We are human people and we all have flaws. People need to stop acting like they’re perfect.”
Sterling is no stranger to rude comments himself. The UFC bantamweight champion has caught a ton of hate from MMA fans and from rival Petr Yan over the past year for winning the title via disqualification, and the lengthy delay before a rematch.
Sterling will get his opportunity to silence that hate when he faces Yan in the co-main event of UFC 273 on April 9.