Newly crowned bantamweight champion Aljamain Sterling is firing back at anyone blaming him for the outcome of his title fight.
Sterling challenged Petr Yan in the first of UFC 259’s three championship fights. As the fourth round came to a close, Sterling found himself on both knees with Yan standing over him. The then-champ inexplicably fired a vicious and blatantly illegal knee at the Funkmaster’s head, causing a pause in the fight. Sterling was visibly rocked from the blow, and after a few minutes, referee Mark Smith and the cage-side physician deemed him unable to continue. Sterling was named the winner and new champion by disqualification.
Following the win, sterling threw the title on the ground and told Joe Rogan post-fight that he wouldn’t accept the title that way. However, a number of posts appeared on social media later that night showing Sterling celebrating with friends and family while holding the belt.
Since then, a number of fans, fighters, and even referee John McCarthy have accused Sterling of exaggerating the effects of the knee in order to draw the DQ. In the latest episode of his Weekly Scraps podcast, Aljamain Sterling addressed the controversial finish and the critics of it. First in his crosshairs were the “Russian doctors” – fans of Yan who have been sending Sterling death threats and comparing his reaction to that of Alistair Overeem after he was knocked out by Francis Ngannou (H/T MMA Fighting).
“I do respect that you guys support your athletes,” Sterling said. “With that being said, you guys aren’t freaking doctors. Just because I got a CAT scan and I was cleared does not mean I wasn’t concussed.
“They’ve been comparing to the Francis Ngannou vs. Overeem knockout, and Overeem got up faster than me. That’s ridiculous. Let’s pump the brakes, cool your tits, you guys aren’t doctors.”
Sterling then turned his attention to McCarthy. The veteran referee implied that Sterling chose to stay down and milk the effects of the knee after hearing Smith tell the doctor Yan would be disqualified if he couldn’t continue.
“I can get what he is saying, but when should a fighter or an athlete and a team ever be disqualified?” Sterling said. “If there are rules to disqualify, when do you ever enforce them? I would think a guy throwing a blatant intentional knee, intentional, he lines me up with intent to do damage, he lines me up to put me out. So if the defense is going to be, I don’t think Petr Yan knew, really? You don’t think he knew, what, the rules that he’s been training for for years, that he’s the world champion of, you don’t think he knew the rules that he can’t knee a downed opponent?
“I’m not trying to go tit for tat with you, but when do you disqualify an athlete? I just really want to know, since you’re the golden standard that everyone should go by, what qualifies for a disqualification in ‘Big’ John McCarthy’s eyes, in his opinion, because I don’t know what else you need that needs to be more clear-cut and dry than that. Intentional, intent, damage, the fight. What else do you want?”
Sterling’s harshest words were towards his fellow fighters that have accused him of faking it.
“Shame on you guys,” Sterling said. “You guys ever see me quit or look for a way out where a guy’s putting on a half-ass rear-naked choke. … “You guys are the freaking softies. I fought my ass off the entire time, and I was not going to quit in that fight. I was going to take my lickings or try to find a way to win like a man. There’s no quit button whenever I’m in there.
“You guys are the actors, and it might be a reflection of your own spirits or whatever. Some of you guys are probably cheaters, anyway.”
The Funkmaster remains adamant that he was unaware of what the outcome of the fight would be. He says that he was barely aware of what was happening in the moment, let alone what would happen if he couldn’t continue in the fight.
“In this moment, I’m thinking a whole bunch of things,” Aljamain Sterling said. “‘Dana’s not going to give me another shot at the title. The fight’s going to be a no-contest. Dana’s going to say he was losing the fight in the fourth round, so why should we use him again, we already know the direction the fight was heading, and so we’re going to move on from this.’ These are all the thoughts going through my head. I’m going to have to win three or four more fights to ever fight for a world title – not, ‘I’m going to become world champion.’”
“I didn’t ask for the belt. I wasn’t trying to get a DQ for a win, or for the championship. I just thought I wasn’t going to ever get my shot again, or take a long time to get back to this position. That’s what I was bummed out about.”
Sterling finished off by saying that his sole aim now is to come more prepared for Yan in his next fight and defend his new title. he is brushing off any detractors who are placing the blame for the outcome of his last fight on him and looking towards the future.
“I can’t control a man for doing illegal sh*t,” he said. “Hopefully, the next one is the best one, and I can hold this [belt] up proudly.”
Do you think Aljamain Sterling milked the effects of the knee? Let us know!