If You Think Aljamain Sterling’s Win Was “Black Privilege” You Are The Problem With MMA

    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.

    Immediately after the referee stopped former bantamweight champion Petr Yan from an illegal knee to a downed Sterling, many accused Sterling of overacting.

    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.

    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.
    Make adjustments.
    Life. Moves. On.

    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.

    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.

    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.

    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.

    How Sway?

    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.

    In addition, many fans circulated the premise that this was Sterling’s title winning in-cage acting championship.

    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.

    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.