It has been a rough couple of days for newly crowned UFC bantamweight champion Aljamain Sterling following the events that transpired at UFC 259.
Sterling met then-champion Petr Yan in what was his first title defense since winning the vacant title at UFC 251. Although Sterling started off well in the opening rounds, Yan turned the tide around once his opponent grew tired and took over in the later rounds.
Unfortunately, the fight came to an end in devastating fashion after Yan threw a knee to the head of a grounded Sterling in the fourth round. Because this was deemed an intentional foul and Sterling was deemed unfit to continue by the cage-side doctor, Yan was disqualified and lost the belt.
Sterling became the first fighter in UFC history to win a championship by way of disqualification, which is a distinction he rather not have. His post-fight actions and interview with UFC color commentator Joe Rogan showed how upset he was about winning his first championship in this manner, but that did not spare him from criticism leveled at him by fans and fighters alike.
The main point of contention was initially about the way in which Sterling responded to the foul, but that soon changed to how he has since reacted to the victory over Yan. A number of posts have been put up on social media by the family and friends of Sterling, including Serra-Longo teammates Merab Dvalishvili and Al Iaquinta, who have urged him to celebrate despite the controversy.
Sterling did exactly that and received even more backlash, which he has now responded to.
“I didn’t win the UFC belt the way I envisioned it, but I also didn’t do anything illegal,” wrote Sterling in an Instagram post. “My friends and family flew miles to come see me and asked me to hoist the belt up as a champion, because I carried myself as such. If that offends you then you have no love in your life, and your own issues to sort out. I’m the “champ”, but I won’t personally feel 100% validation until I defend this the way I envisioned winning it, in the first place!”
Sterling continued by stating he looks forward to being cleared to compete again and is ready for whatever fight comes next for him. UFC President Dana White has said that he would like to get a rematch scheduled as soon as possible, so that is likely going to be the next assignment for Sterling.