Aljamain Sterling is one of the most controversial figures in the UFC and MMA today. He faced bantamweight champion Petr Yan at UFC 259 and became the first person in history to win a UFC title by disqualification, owing to an illegal knee from the Russian.
While Petr Yan's knee was rightly judged to be illegal under the Unified Rules of MMA, many felt that the bout should have been called a 'No Contest', as opposed to a disqualification, therefore stopping the belt changing hands.
It's no secret that Petr Yan was dominating the fight until the unfortunate incident occurred. Aljamain Sterling is primarily a wrestler who repeatedly said his game plan was to attempt multiple takedowns. Ironically enough, Sterling landed only 1 of 17 attempted takedowns compared to Yan's 7 of 7. He tried to justify this later by saying that the octagon was slippery, but that clearly didn't stop Yan from landing 7 takedowns on the wrestler. Nor did it stop Jan Blachowicz from landing his takedowns on Israel Adesanya later on in the main event.
Aljamain Sterling has easily become the most disputed UFC champion in recent history, and it has only gotten worse after he announced he is needing surgery on his neck.
Here are 3 reasons why Aljamain Sterling should be stripped of the UFC title:
#3 Timing of surgery
Aljamain Sterling recently stated that he needs surgery for an injury he's been struggling with since college. While we aren't the ones to point fingers at someone's medical needs, you could argue that the timing of his announcement is rather suspicious.
Fans have been calling for an immediate rematch with Petr Yan, and Aljamain Sterling even threw the belt in the octagon after the fight, claiming he didn't want to win the belt this way and needs to rematch Yan right away.
But since then Sterling has gone on a social media rampage of showcasing his belt and declaring himself the true bantamweight champion.
Whether he's doing it to troll audiences or believes in his statements, it definitely doesn't showcase the current champion in a good light.
Aljamain Sterling says he's lived with the injury for nearly 10 years, since his wrestling days in college. It seems oddly suspicious that he would announce surgery for the same time as the MMA world is calling for his immediate rematch with Petr Yan.
Again, we aren't the ones to question the severity of a person's injury or medical needs, but the timing isn't the best, to say the least.
#2 Questionable win
Aljamain Sterling became the first fighter in UFC history to win a title through a disqualification. Many seemed to think that whilst Yan's knee to a grounded Sterling was clearly illegal, the bout should have been called a 'No Contest'. It seems strange to think that a title can change hands from a disqualification, which was called after Sterling couldn't continue.
Jon Jones kneed a downed Anthony Smith in their bout at UFC 235 and was given a two-point deduction after Smith said he could continue. Demetrious Johnson was kneed during his bout with Adriano Moraes, and while he was downed similar to Sterling, these are deemed legal under ONE Championship rules. Both Johnson and Smith recovered fairly quickly in comparison to Aljamain Sterling, further raising suspicions over Sterling's apparent condition following the knee from Yan.
Aljamain Sterling has gone from rejecting the belt to asserting his claim as the rightful champion, rubbing a lot of people the wrong way in the process.
#1 The UFC's history in similar situations
MMA fans have called for an interim title bout while Aljamain Sterling takes time off to heal, and others have called for him to be stripped of the title. Petr Yan dominated his fights leading up to the belt and was dominating the fight against Sterling until the unfortunate incident.
To say that he should fight for an interim title, when many believe that he shouldn't have lost the belt in the first place, seems a little harsh. Not only did he lose the title he rightfully earned but he looks set to be denied a rematch for an interim title opportunity instead.
You could argue that Petr Yan pulled out of the first scheduled bout against Aljamain Sterling at UFC 256, but you can also argue that Tony Ferguson was stripped of his interim lightweight title after sustaining an unfortunate knee injury. Ferguson won his title fair and square by defeating Kevin Lee, and many felt that he was wrongly stripped of the title for something that wasn't his fault.
Aljamain Sterling, on the other hand, is one of the most disputed champions in recent history, if not the most disputed. Being the first person to win a title by disqualification, in a fight that he was clearly losing, doesn't make for a very strong case to hold on to the title for a long period of inactivity.
Petr Yan was riding a 10-fight win streak in the UFC before his DQ loss to Sterling. To say he must fight for an interim title while Sterling holds the belt on the sideline for a minimum of 6 months of inactivity seems a little unfair to the former champion.