Yan thinks Sterling had different reasons for posting a picture of himself with a Ukraine flag before their bantamweight title fight at UFC 273 on Saturday
Petr Yan thinks Aljamain Sterling is bringing politics into their bantamweight title fight at UFC 273.
Yan and Sterling meet in a rematch this Saturday in Jacksonville, Florida. The pair fought last year when Yan left Sterling unable to continue for landing an illegal knee, making Sterling the first UFC fighter in history to win a title via disqualification.
Interim champion Yan, who was born and lives in Russia, has denounced the ongoing war in Ukraine, previously posting a picture of two hands together both in the colours of the nations. He also captioned the picture “No to war”.
24,000 people have died in Ukraine since Vladimir Putin declared war on the country in February. Over four million residents have fled Ukraine leaving a quarter of their population displaced.
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Sterling posted a picture of himself and teammates posing behind a Ukraine flag, with the caption: “My team and I support Ukraine”. Yan wasn’t impressed with this, telling The MMA Hour: “Looking at his statements before, trying to make it political, using the flags, smiling, standing with the Ukrainian flag.
“He tried to make it political. Yeah, I thought he didn’t want me to be over here in the United States. Now that I’m here, he knows that it’s over for him.”
Yan will be without his usual corner team for the title fight as they were denied US Visas last month. It comes after tough sanctions have been issued on Russia because of its invasion of Ukraine. Yan has sought the help of Henry Cejudo and Sean O’Malley to coach him for the fight.
Cejudo initially agreed to be in the Russian’s corner, but had a change of heart stating he wouldn’t be his “waterboy“. O’Malley had also agreed but has since snubbed Yan, meaning it’s unclear who the 29-year-old will have to help him in the title fight.
Sterling is an underdog heading into his first title defence against former champion and current interim titleholder Yan. The Russian has told Sterling their rematch will end worse for him, as the American won’t be crying after the fight but instead sleeping.
“I kill him. He will feel better how it was last time, last time he cried after this fight he won’t cry, he will sleep,” Yan said. “I want to make sure there won’t be no questions left after this and I will make sure there will be no questions left.”