Aljamain Sterling may be the reigning UFC bantamweight champion, but he’s heading into UFC 273 with a point to prove, both to Petr Yan and to his haters online.
“The Funkmaster” claimed the title after defending champion Yan was disqualified for a deliberate knee to the head of a clearly-downed Sterling in their first meeting at UFC 259 in March 2021. Even Sterling was left disappointed by the manner of his victory. A rematch was swiftly booked, but injury problems have meant their return bout has had to wait more than a year from that controversial first fight.
Sterling knows he wasn’t at his best in that first matchup and, speaking to MMA Junkie, he promised to deliver a much more decisive performance in the rematch on April 9.
“When I’m feeling good, when I’m on top of the world, it’s just a different Aljamain Sterling,” he said.
“That fight with Petr Yan was not the same Aljamain Sterling that everyone’s used to seeing, and I can’t wait to right that wrong and show everybody that I’m far from delusional. I know exactly what I’m talking about, the skills are legit, and the skills are real.”
After more than a year on the sidelines, Sterling is itching to get back into the mix, and is eyeing a big performance on a big card at UFC 273, where the 32-year-old plans to build his bank, and his legacy.
“I’m in the sport to make f*****g money (and) to submit my name in history amongst the greatest bantamweights of all time, and that’s really it. Everything else is icing on the cake,” he stated.
“So I’m going out there first time actually making pay-per-view points. I think any time you’re fighting on a pay-per-view card, there’s a reason why you’re on that card and you should get a piece of the revenue. In that regard, I think it will make people go that much harder with promoting and I think it’s just a win-win for everybody.
“Petr Yan is actually getting pay-per-view points too – as an interim champion you get you get pay-per-view points. So I’m glad he’s getting paid as well, because this is a big matchup. I think we both deserve it. It’s a big fight, I think probably arguably bigger than the main event, and I think a lot of people are really dialling in to see this one.”
Despite the controversial finish to his first fight with Yan, Sterling is riding a six-fight win streak and plans to extend that run with a show-stealing performance in the rematch on a card packed with talent looking to make an impact in Jacksonville.
“It’s a big card, you know? So this is a great opportunity for a lot of us to showcase ourselves and everyone to prove who they are, and state their cases,” he said.
“At the end of the day, I know Yan is a tough competitor, he wants to win just as bad as I do. And I just can’t wait to punch him in the face, and show him that I’m the man right now. He can have his turn when I’m done.”
If Sterling is successful on April 9, don’t expect him to stay out of action for long. After spending more than a year on the sidelines, the New Yorker said he’s planning to make a quick turnaround for his next assignment.
“I’m hoping after this, I can keep the momentum going and bang out some more fights. Like back-to-back kind of thing, you know? So that’s where I’m at right now,” he said.
“I’m just excited to compete and ready to shut all these critics up – these couch potato professionals – and really just stick it to Yan and show him that I am who I say I am.”