Aljamain Sterling has a message for all his haters: be quiet.
Sterling won his bantamweight championship beating Petr Yan at UFC 273.. This victory was particularly sweet for Yan, who had been criticized by fans over his win of the bantamweight title through disqualification at UFC 259..
Now, without the specter of the DQ controversy hanging over this title win, “The Funk Master” is relishing his “told ya so” moment.
“It feels great,” Sterling told Ariel Helwani on The MMA Hour. It feels great to realize that all the things I have said about each other since our first fight, it was 100% correct. What I said, the reason I had an off night, was the way I was feeling and I wasn’t bulls*******.
“People can say it’s a stupid excuse, and it is. It’s an excuse. I’m sure it sounds stupid, but that’s exactly what it was. It does feel as if I had come in prepared and not suffered from the hiccup that I did, that I would have finished Petr Yan in our first encounter. This was because that Petr Yan’s version wasn’t as strong as the one I saw at UFC 273.. Petr Yan was better. He was more organized when it came time to defend himself. I felt that he was better and won comfortably. Two 10-8 rounds, I feel like I should have had two 10-8 rounds. I don’t know how you get four minutes of control time, ground and pound and submission attempts, and that doesn’t hit the criteria that they implemented for 10-8 rounds.
“I’m just happy. It was a great experience. I proved my team wrong, I proved myself wrong, and I had to go to Vegas to let the guys sucking it. That’s it. People want to be malicious and talk about your family, talk about all this stuff, call me monkey, dropping the N-bomb, a whole bunch of s***. I dealt with a lot, and it’s a good thing I have thick skin, because that probably would’ve broken a lot of people, but not this guy. The guy arrived prepared and ready to fight, and I was ready to win .”
Although Sterling made a strong case that he deserved at least one 10-8 round in the fight, none of the judges for the event granted him one. Sterling won the fight in three rounds, according to two judges scorecards. According to Sterling, the champion said it wasn’t that close as he took his foot off of the pedal in rounds four-five.
“Once I had that, I was like, I’m up three rounds, if I want to take the next two rounds off, I can,” Sterling said. And that is kinda what actually happened. … If I wanted to stand up in that fourth round, I could’ve stood up. However, I began playing jiu jitsu and that’s something I still do a lot in the gym. I get so comfortable with submitting guys off my back and looking for scrambles — he was down three rounds, and I think he knew he needed to pocket one, so for me to just hang out, I accepted that position. If I had wanted to, I would have. … I could’ve got back up and not given him a chance to even score a round in that fight, and I gave away that round and he started to build momentum…it is what it is. It was a good fight. I thought I fought an intelligent fight. Two rounds were given away that could easily have been fought in a very different way or the same [as the first three rounds], since gas tank was not an issue. It was fun, and people were excited that there would be some ‘get me’ moments. Everyone was stifling me. Right now, I’m the reigning bantamweight champion. “
This win proved more decisive than Sterling’s victory at UFC 259,, but that does not mean the fight was without controversy. Following the bout, Yan argued that he should have won, a claim that was echoed by some in the MMA community, including UFC President Dana White and former UFC referee turned Bellator commentator John McCarthy.
The pivotal round in question for the fight is the opening stanza, where Sterling out-landed Yan 19-13 in significant strikes, but Yan was the one coming forward. Sterling claims that the scoring criteria are clear, and anyone who disagrees with them doesn’t understand what they’re talking.
“Come on! Can you both throw less than 20 strikes, one guy throw 5-7 strikes less, pending on whether you count some of the ones that brushed off the shoulder, as a win?” Sterling said. “How can you win by walking forward with a mean face and throwing 5-7 strikes less than the opposing guy, because you were walking forward and getting schooled with footwork. How does that win you a round? People can say aggression all they want – aggression ain’t s*** if you ain’t cutting me off and landing strikes and doing what you want. You can fight my fight if you do what I ask you, which is to chase me and get pot-shotted. It’s not your job to win a fight.
“The rulebook, as per the criteria, you score damage, effective striking, and my striking was more effective and I controlled and dictated where the fight took place that entire round. So I think it’s pretty black and white. Let’s not forget about the elbow that I rubbed on his forehead that caused him to stumble forward. That was my most important strike. So people that say robbery, what is a robbery? I have no idea what a “robbery” is. … Everything is a robbery because your guy didn’t win the round.
“There is no way that you can score this round. Big stupid John McCarthy voice. You need to get some clues, dude. This guy is a complete scumbag. It stinks. His only statement is ***,. I believe he wants everyone to think that he understands what he’s saying. I think he had an MMA school, I think he had fighters, which one of them ever did anything? What did his school ever do? This man is clearly so amazing, what else has he done?
” If you’re interested in having an opinion on a matter, John. You can be wrong, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you agree with John. Please be calm and allow the big guys to do their job at an elite level. This is something that you have never been able do. Relax there, buddy.”