The longstanding rivalry between UFC bantamweight champion Aljamain Sterling and former titleholder Petr Yan appears to be over. For now, at least.
The pair were first matched up at UFC 259 in March 2021 with Yan walking into the bout as the UFC’s bantamweight champion. Backed by a 10-fight win streak, he faced Sterling as the top contender in a bout that would make UFC history, though for a rather unfortunate reason. With just 31-seconds left in the fourth round, Yan landed a blatantly illegal knee on Sterling forcing a pause to the action.
After numerous minutes, it was determined that ‘Funk Master’ could no longer continue and the fight was called. The blow was deemed intentional, therefore Petr Yan was disqualified and Aljamain Sterling was crowned the new bantamweight world champion.
Many fans and fighters speculated that Sterling had embellished the damage he had taken from the blow. Fuel was added to that fire when footage emerged of ‘Funk Master’ celebrating the win with family later that night, prompting Yan to accuse Sterling of taking a dive.
“It was a dive,” tweeted Yan. “Is it coincidence his last name is also Sterling?”
It was a dive. Is it coincidence his last name is also Sterling? 🤦🏻♂️ #EURO2020
— Petr “No Mercy” Yan (@PetrYanUFC) July 7, 2021
Given the controversial nature of the finish, the UFC booked a rematch between the two at UFC 267. Two months out from the bout, Aljamain Sterling withdrew due to a neck injury. The fight was rescheduled for UFC 272, but the contest fell apart almost as quickly as it came together once again.
Fortunately, the contest was only pushed back a month to UFC 273. Aljamain Sterling claimed that the delay was due to either vaccination or visa-related issues with Yan’s travel from Russia into the United States amid the COVID-19 pandemic, though Yan quickly disputed that.
Lmao I’m only repeating what I was told from the bosses 🤷🏾♂️. Don’t get your potato tits in a twist! I’d happily fuc k you up tmw too. That can easily be arranged. Мышь https://t.co/lI4IuU2pYA
— Aljamain Sterling (@funkmasterMMA) January 12, 2022
After Almost Two Years, Aljamain Sterling and Petr Yan Appear to Squash Their Beef With One Another
At UFC 273, the time for talk was over and both men squared off in the Octagon to settle the score. Their bout was a highly entertaining affair but would result in a much-debated split decision from the judges that favored Aljamain Sterling. UFC President Dana White said that the judges “blew that one” as he had it 48-47 in favor of Yan.
After the somewhat controversial decision at UFC 274, both fighters appeared ready to move on from one another. ‘Funk Master’ called for a fight with TJ Dillashaw who had recently returned from a two-year suspension for PED usage while Yan was paired up with rising fan favorite Sean O’Malley. As fate would have it, both fighters would be booked for UFC 280 in Abu Dhabi
The two bantamweight stars caught up with one another and appeared to squash their beef, even suggesting a friendly trilogy between the could be in the cards depending on how things shake out in their performances on Yas Island.
Trilogy 🍻 pic.twitter.com/qvY2a2BMnM
— Aljamain Sterling (@funkmasterMMA) October 10, 2022