Former UFC bantamweight champion Petr Yan was on a ten-fight win streak heading into his first title defense, vs. Aljamian Sterling at UFC 259 on Saturday night. The Russian appeared to be taking over the fight after a slow start, when he inexplicably landed a hard knee to the face of a downed Sterling, and was disqualified.
Referee Mark Smith clearly told the fighters that Sterling was down. Yan’s English-speaking corner was yelling ‘Grounded ... punches only.' Daniel Cormier said that his AKA teammate, UFC lightweight GOAT and Russian icon Khabib Nurmagomedov said that Yan’s Russian-speaking corner told him to kick. However, at the post-fight media conference, a subdued Yan explained what happened, and said that none of the corner advice was a factor.
“I don’t know what to say, I know I made a mistake,” said Yan in Russian, as translated by RT Sport, and transcribed by Ryan Harkness for MMA Mania. “In no way was that intentional. I was focused on his hands. The referee told us about hand position and how to tell when a fighter is grounded. I was focused on his hands and when he raised them, I hit him.”
“Honestly, I didn’t understand what my cornermen were telling me. I was focused on his hands leaving the ground. The replay will likely show how he raised his hands. I didn’t see that his knees were down, I thought he was squatting.”
Yan was asked how it felt to lose a fight that the judge's scorecards had him up on via Split Decision.
“It sucks,” said Yan. “I don’t think Aljamain will accept the belt in a fight like that. If he’s healthy I’ll be happy to do a rematch.”
Yan also apologized on his social network.
Former division champion, the disgraced T.J. Dillashaw got his digs in.
UFC president Dana White said at the post-fight media conference that he was open to an immediate rematch.