The Ultimate Fighting Championship’s (UFC) latest event UFC 259 will feature not one, not two, but three title defences on the same card. Bantamweight champion Petr Yan will be among those putting their title on the line at Las Vegas on Saturday when he takes on Aljamain Sterling. ‘The Funk Master’ as he is nicknamed will be hoping to snap Yan’s undefeated streak in UFC – he currently boasts a 7-0-0 record. Sterling concedes that Yan is a ‘very tough’ dude but is confident he can exploit certain loopholes in the champion’s game and end the night with his hand raised high.
“Petr Yan is a very tough dude, he’s durable, he’s a gamer. He’s a pressure fighter, he keeps the fight in front of you the entire time; he walks his opponents down so that he can land that big shot,” Sterling told News18 Sports.
“He’s got good kicks and good boxing. It seems like he has relatively good hand speed as well, there is pop to his punches. We will say we don’t know much about his grappling.
“I think that’s where I can exploit him the most. I could strike with him but why play that game when I don’t have to. I’ve got the reach advantage. I’m just as tough, just as durable guy, just as much cardio as he has.
“This is just a game of inches, and this highest level, whoever makes the first mistake is going to be the one ends up laying on their back. This is a very complex fight. I just have to make sure I take my time and find my openings.”
A title win would be some way to cap what has been a long-winded career for Sterling. A wrestler in high school, he first trained in MMA under the tutelage of legendary UFC fighter Jon Jones as part of the BombSquad.
Sterling admitted that he learnt a lot from the work ethic of Jones. “I learned a lot from Jon. I think the main takeaways I got from Jon at a very early age was that he was the dictator of his own future.
“He put it into his own hands by some self studying, watching YouTube videos, not being complacent with the small gym that we had where we really didn’t have much training partners, and especially for him. He was so good.
“There wasn’t anyone to really help elevate him to the next level terms of coaches or training partners. So he made sure he did what he had to do to put himself in a position to win and to have success.
“One of the things I always admired about him was that he’s always talented but he worked hard. He might have his troubles outside of the ring. But everything he’s earned, he’s worked for. I’ve seen that firsthand.”
Should Sterling win the title, he will be the first fighter who was once associated with the BombSquad since Jones himself to have held gold in the UFC.
Watch UFC 259 – Blachowicz Vs Adesanya on March 7, 2021, LIVE on Sony Ten 2 and Sony Ten 3 channels from 8:30 AM IST