Aljamain Sterling shockingly became the UFC bantamweight champion in Las Vegas on Saturday when an illegal knee brought his fight to Petr Yan to a halt.
After Sterling was grounded, Yan held Sterling by the arms and kneeled in the challenger’s face in what is an illegal blow. The fight was halted and after the cage doctor confirmed Sterling could not continue, Yan was disqualified.
The world watched as Sterling struggled to get up and then received the UFC belt. Sterling tossed it to the ground and then fell to the octagon floor in tears. In a post-fight interview, he stated that he didn’t want to win it that way.
Here’s what UFC fighters had to say about the controversial moment at UFC 259.
Not the way I’d ever want to win a fight. It was tight, competitive and full of action. I felt like the knee was on purpose, especially after the referee announced I was a downed opponent, so I wasn’t expecting to be hit.
Yan is a bad guy! WE WILL DO IT AGAIN! # UFC259
– Aljamain Sterling (@funkmasterMMA) March 7, 2021
I apologize and wish @funkmasterMMA a speedy recovery. I didn’t want to throw an illegal strike, I just made a big mistake and paid for it.
– Petr “No Mercy” Yan (@PetrYanUFC) March 7, 2021
What on earth was Yan thinking? # UFC259
– Tatiana Suarez (@tatianaufc) March 7, 2021
Obviously illegal knee! Put your damn hand on @petryanufc
– Chuck Liddell (@ChuckLiddell) March 7, 2021
That was very illegal, it couldn’t be much worse. Yan was already flirting with danger by throwing those ax kicks when Aljo was downstairs. The doctors made the right call. You cannot let the fighter make the decision to proceed after such a shot. # UFC259
– Michael Chiesa (@ MikeMav22) March 7, 2021
For the record. This move by Yan was headless and illegal, and he should lose if his opponent cannot continue.
– Dominick Reyes (@DomReyes) March 7, 2021
That call should never be on the fighter. Plain and simple. It’s over with a shot like that. Doc does his job and it’s over.
– Justin Gaethje @ (@Justin_Gaethje) March 7, 2021
Ohhhh snap ….. illegal knee 100% !!
– Stephen Thompson (@WonderboyMMA) March 7, 2021
Here’s the thing that you can’t stop the fight by sitting on your knees. Kneeling to a grounded opponent should be allowed!
– Demetrious Johnson (@MightyMouse) March 7, 2021
Congratulations to the new undisputed champion @funkmasterMMA !! I know he wouldn’t have chosen to win that way, but it wasn’t his fault. Let’s go #serralongo
– Chris Weidman (@chrisweidman) March 7, 2021
Aljamain was in great shape, fighting forward every second of that fight, not his fault for being illegally kneeled. Congratulations Champion, you did it
– BONY (@JonnyBones) March 7, 2021
You wait for this moment your whole life, he doesn’t play people he didn’t want to win like that, but it was a great fight
– Belal Muhammad (@ bullyb170) March 7, 2021