Aljamain Sterling believes his UFC 259 fight with Petr Yan in March this year would have been closer if it hadn't been for "free seven slip takedowns."
Sterling defeated Yan via disqualification in the fourth round due to an illegal knee on a downed opponent. Ever since he claimed the belt, many in the MMA world have considered 'No Mercy' to be the real bantamweight champ.
Speaking on his The Weekly Scrap Podcast, 'Funk Master' stressed that he wasn't able to execute his pre-fight strategy properly nine months ago.
"The mindset then was if I could just scum this man for three rounds and stall for 10 minutes, I win the fight and I'm champion. My goal was... to stifle this guy just making it a boring fight. Obviously, it was an exciting fight because of how crazy it was. You watch the fight, you interpret it how you want to interpret it. But you take away the slips, the free seven slip takedowns that I gave him by doing the slowest spins in the world. It's mind blowing. You take away those. How close is that fight in terms of just striking output and cage control? Like I was in the fight regardless of what people want to say," said Sterling.
Watch Aljamain Sterling in conversation with his long-time friend Henoc Maurice below:
Sterling was scheduled to make his first title defense against Yan in a rematch at UFC 267 on October 30, 2021. However, the titleholder pulled out due to a neck injury.
The Russian star fought No. 4-ranked contender Cory Sandhagen instead on the same card and won via unanimous decision to claim the interim bantamweight belt.
Aljamain Sterling is currently on an incredible win streak
Despite all the criticism coming his way, Aljamain Sterling holds the second longest active winning streak among UFC bantamweight contenders with six straight victories.
He has had high-profile triumphs over Sandhagen, Pedro Munhoz and Jimmie Rivera during this period. His training partner, Merab Dvalishvili, holds the longest active streak in the UFC 135-pound division with seven straight wins.
Sterling's last defeat came against former bantamweight title challenger Marlon Moraes at UFC Fight Night 123 in December 2017.