“A Fighter WIth Dignity Would Not Accept This Title” | Aljamain Sterling UFC Title Rematch Is About Redemption

Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC

Aljamain Sterling has the worst job in UFC title history. After controversially winning the UFC bantamweight title, he has to carry the burden of widespread disbelief with him like an oversized cross-body bag.

This Saturday, he has a chance at redemption at UFC 273 when he faces Petr Yan in Jacksonville, Florida.

Although he is still on a six-fight win streak and holder of the UFC bantamweight title, Sterling’s win by disqualification over Petr Yan at UFC 259 in early 2021 was bittersweet.

The DQ Champ

In the fourth round of a back-and-forth fight, Yan gave Sterling an illegal knee that saw Sterling with early success but later-round failures.

As a result of Yan winning the fight midway through its unfortunate ending, Sterling’s title reign has come with the fans’ ire.

“I feel like I got a fresh lease on my athletic career, and I can’t wait to come back and show the fans the new and improved Funkmaster,” Sterling said after the weigh-ins.

Sterling’s Surgery

Sterling then abruptly pulled out of the first scheduled rematch, which was supposed to take place at UFC 267, due to lingering neck issues. Sterling had aggravated his neck injuries sustained during his NCAA Division I wrestling career in upstate New York.

Yan fought Cory Sandhagen for the interim UFC bantamweight championship, winning via unanimous decision. However, Sterling wanted nothing more than to compete again.

“A lot of people wrote me off; they thought my career was pretty much over, they didn’t think I would come back after that surgery, but here I am living proof that as long as you put the work in, you can get back to where you want to be,” Sterling continued.

“It was an emotional moment for me, because I felt like I was having some trouble in the training room, and I got through that hurdle. I feel like that song, the music has stopped.”

The True Champ

Now the two face off again to finish what they started and unify the titles in the process. But Aljamain’s most prominent opponent isn’t just Yan but the taunts of the massive following who feel like Yan that Sterling didn’t “win” the championship but it was DQ-gifted.

“A fighter with dignity would not accept this title,” Yan said through a Russian interpreter during his UFC 273 Embedded vlog. The fans seem to agree, especially when videos hit social media of Sterling unwrapping his belt and celebrating with friends in his native Long Island.

The prevailing theme hovering around Sterling’s title was that he didn’t have the right to be happy, that his was a dream still deferred while wrapped in the sport’s ultimate prize.

Fans’ Short Memory

“I felt like the champ since I beat Corey Sandhagen,” Sterling said of his UFC 250 win. “We were the two highest-ranked guys that weren’t fighting for a title, but you got a guy who is fighting a retired Uriah Faber and a guy coming off a split-decision loss fighting for the vacant UFC title? When you got two guys with the highest win streaks in the division, not?

“The fans can say whatever they want now because it was my last performance, short memory, but UFC 273 is right around the corne,r and we’re going to see who’s who come Saturday night.”

Aljamain Sterling is fighting for his name, title, and redemption in the sport of the mind martial arts.

Rhett Butler is a Boxing Writer Association of America Journalist, Play-By-Play Commentator, Combat Sports Insider, and Former Mixed Martial Arts and Boxing Promoter. The New York City native honed his skills at various news outlets including but not limited to: TIME Magazine, Money Magazine, CNN's Wolf Blitzer Reports, and more. Rhett hosts the PRITTY Left Hook podcast, a polarizing combat sports insider's take featuring the world's biggest names.