Saturday night, Petr Yan lost his bantamweight title to Aljamain Sterling. The bout created headlines due to a controversial ending in which Yan used an illegal knee and lost his belt via disqualification. Sterling later celebrated his new title but sparked critical comments from Yan.
A photo surfaced on Twitter that showed Sterling with his new piece of hardware draped over his shoulder. He had a large smile on his face, which did not sit well with Yan. "Glad to see champ is fine now..." the fighter tweeted in response. Both fighters sparked a wide variety of comments from MMA fans on Sunday.
"It's a shame to win a fight and UFC belt by acting, and now make photos of it. That knee was illegal, no question about it, but 5 minutes to recover and one point deduction should have been the proper punishment. Sterling is a bad actor," one fan tweeted. Others said that Yan "didn't know the rules" and that he deserved to lose.
The controversial moment occurred at four minutes and 29 seconds of the fourth round. Sterling was on his knees when Yan landed the illegal knee. The ringside physician examined Sterling and determined that he could not continue in the fight. Referee Mark Smith then ruled the foul intentional and disqualified Yan. Sterling was then taken to the hospital for precautionary reasons.
Both fighters took to social media in the aftermath of the bout and reflected to the controversial ending. "I apologize and wish speedy recovery to [Aljamain Sterling] I didn’t mean to throw an illegal strike, I just made a big mistake and paid for it," Yan tweeted on Saturday night. Sterling, on the other hand, said that disqualification is not how he wanted to win the title. He said that he felt the knee was intentional before proclaiming that he and Yan would face off once again.
Sterling added in his tweet that the fight was close and competitive, but some people disagreed. ESPN reports that the judges had Yan ahead 29-28, 29-28, 28-29 going into the fourth round. UFC President Dana White, in particular, said that Yan was taking control of the fight before throwing the knee.
"I think there's a lot of fatigue, frustration. It was a good fight," White said. "But the thing is, [Yan] was turning it on. He was starting to win the fight. He was starting to absolutely take control of that fight. ... Why you throw that knee, I couldn't tell you."