Aljamain Sterling vs. Petr Yan is the fight to make in the UFC’s bantamweight division.
Following both men’s impressive victories at UFC 238, it seemed obvious that with Henry Cejudo set to defend his 125-pound title next, a number one contender bout between “The Funkmaster” and “No Mercy” was the logical next step for the 135-pound division.
This became especially true when, days after UFC 238, Yan called out Sterling on twitter, requesting an interim title fight with the New Yorker, to take place in Yan’s native Russia later in the year. Since that first callout, Yan and Sterling have gone back-and-forth on Twitter, and both clearly feel confident that one more victory will earn them a shot at Henry Cejudo’s title.
Maybe you can beat your meat with one hand but I need two 😂 https://t.co/FWn6TeuGfk
— Aljamain Sterling (@FunkMaster_UFC) June 27, 2019
It also seems clear that both have a genuine dislike for one another, and in a recent appearance on Submission Radio, Sterling was asked how he feels about the Russian fighter. His answer was less than complimentary.
“That guy is what I would like to call a little bit of a two-face talker. He’s one of those guys who says, ‘I don’t do my talking outside the cage, I get in there and let me performance speak for itself’, that type of thing, he’s one of those kinds of guys.
“And then he gets on Twitter and he’s talking about how he could beat Henry Cejudo and I in one night with one hand or whatever, something dumb.”
Sterling also detailed an encounter he had with Yan at a UFC event, where “No Mercy” once again asked whether Sterling would be open to a fight in Russia, much to “The Funkmaster’s” annoyance.
“He tried to come up to me and ask why I’m afraid to fight him in Moscow. And I had to simply, politely tell him, hey there, Petr, I’m ranked higher than you. You don’t call the shots. I call the shots. You report to me for work, or Dana White. But other than that, his due is gonna come. He thinks he’s better, I think I’m better, and I think it’s gonna be a great fight.”
One man who may interfere with this match-up taking place is Urijah Faber. Faber returned after a two-and-a-half-year hiatus from MMA competition at UFC Fight Night Sacramento last weekend, and emphatically knocked out rising star Ricky Simon in just 46 seconds. While Faber and Henry Cejudo also traded shots on twitter after the bout, Sterling remains unimpressed by “The California Kid’s” charge for the title.
“I didn’t think he’d be that irrational that much to think that after coming out of retirement after such a long layoff and losing to a guy (Jimmie Rivera) that two guys ahead of him beat. I just didn’t think that made a tonne of sense. I understand he’s a legend and all that, he just has a huge following and whatnot, but let’s be real here, the guy’s had four title shots, and right now I don’t think he’s deserving of a fifth.
“I think if there is a fight that’s going to be on the table that the fans want to see, it’s gonna be myself versus a young, tough, hungry Petr Yan, who needs to get the shit smacked out of him.”
While Faber’s return complicated the title picture at 135-pounds, UFC President Dana White recently confirmed Henry Cejudo would defend his 125-pound title next, which certainly provided clarity for a division many believed would be non-existent by now.
Sterling is hopeful that he and Joseph Benavidez, who will most likely be Cejudo’s opponent at flyweight, can end “Triple C’s” run as a double champion. Benavidez already holds a victory over Cejudo back in 2016, and Sterling believes this will happen again. Similarly, “The Funkmaster” feels he is a nightmare match-up for “The Messenger” and is confident he will conquer Cejudo.
“Cejudo’s got to go down and defend his 125-pound belt first against Joey Benavidez. I think Benavidez takes one belt off the shoulder; I’m going to take the other belt off the shoulder… he’s a tough dude, but I’m not Marlon and I’m not TJ. He’s not going to find any quit in me; I’m a different breed.”