Aljamain “Funk Master” Sterling became the first fighter in UFC history to win a title by disqualification.
He didn’t want it that way but because it happen ended doesn’t mean it was by design.
— UFC (@ufc) March 7, 2021
Immediately after the referee stopped former bantamweight champion Petr Yan from an illegal knee to a downed Sterling, many accused Sterling of overacting.
Nominated for an Oscar this year are:
Robert de niro
Aljamain Sterling #UFC259
— D (@darrentill2) March 7, 2021
There is no excuse for Yan’s actions. Fighters are explicitly told the rules for engagement and attacking a downed fighter with one knee on the canvas while standing is as illegal as they come.
Aljamain Sterling issued a statement after winning the UFC bantamweight title from Petr Yan via disqualification at #UFC259
— ESPN MMA (@espnmma) March 7, 2021
Sterling made a statement on his Instagram page:
“I didn’t win the @UFC belt the way I envisioned it, but I also didn’t do anything illegal. 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!
Either way, I can’t wait to be cleared. The future is bright and I can’t wait to see what’s in store for my team and I.
Stay the course.
Life. Moves. On.
— UFC (@ufc) March 7, 2021
It are these rules that changed the sport of MMA from human cockfighting to a respectable sport primed for the mainstream.
However, blaming Sterling for winning the belt in that fashion or viewing his reaction to the hit as overacting shows a lack of empathy on the highest level.
— Petr “No Mercy” Yan (@PetrYanUFC) March 8, 2021
Sterling is a Jamaican-American fighter from the Serra-Longo camp in Long Island, NY. Before the UFC 259 title match he was on a five fight win streak.
He defeated top bantamweight like Brett Johns, Jimmie Rivera, and Corey Sandhagen, with the later ending by first round submission.
In short, Sterling is no slouch.
You’re right Petey. I should’ve told everyone who flew out to Las Vegas, to not come to my house, to not say they were happy to see me, and to not want any pictures with me.
By this logic, I should’ve been locked in my room until my next fight.
Makes sense. 🤦🏾♂️ https://t.co/osePd2JKWS
— Aljamain Sterling (@funkmasterMMA) March 8, 2021
The fact that some fans and athletes would suggest he used the moment to tug at the sympathies of the ref or judges is ridiculous. Yan would have been disqualified regardless for the egregious move.
Making Sterling the bad guy when the sanctity of trust each fighter has for each other was compromised by Sterling’s actions is the problem with MMA and Black fighters.
looks clean to me. pic.twitter.com/DiwFZ5RBW9
— Kyle Kendall (@kyle_tkendall) March 8, 2021
Blackness is seen as threatening and dominant based on archetypal stereotypes. Yan delivering a brutal knee standing over a downed opponent is actually rationalized as not that bad.
Had it been any other non-Black athlete, Yan would have been excoriated for his lapse of judgment. Instead, Yan himself lambasted Sterling for celebrating with his friends post-fight.
Black privilege 👌 at its best.
Whenever it comes to decision the black guy always bags it. ( In USA )
Be it wilder, Jones, Floyd or aljo 👌
— 🙂 (@absooluly) March 8, 2021
In addition, many fans circulated the premise that this was Sterling’s title winning in-cage acting championship.
Aljamain Sterling when he hits the locker room pic.twitter.com/3agmMUa18J
— lennie (@coochiejrue) March 7, 2021
Black fighters are constantly unprotected in the UFC. Until the organization addresses that issue, the playing field both within and in the court of public opinion will never feel even.