After Petr Yan won the UFC bantamweight title at UFC 251 this summer, all eyes turned to the presumptive next title bout: a scrap between Yan and Aljamain Sterling. And despite the delay in booking the fight, Sterling remains confident he will challenge for the UFC bantamweight title this year, and now he’s even got an event in mind.
“I am the next guy in line,” Sterling told MMAJunkie. “Just getting in shape and hopefully it’s gonna be in December, first or second week.”
And it seems the MMA Gods seemed to hear Sterling’s plea because in a bit of kismet for “The Funkmaster,” yesterday, news broke that the UFC’s planned headliner for UFC 256 in December, a welterweight title fight between champion Kamaru Usman and number one contender Gilbert Burns, would not be taking place at that event. The December pay-per-view event for the UFC has historically been an event the UFC has tried to stack with multiple title fights to end the year on a high note, and without Usman vs. Burns, the event currently only has a women’s featherweight title fight between Amanda Nunes and Megan Anderson set for the card. That leaves a big opening in the UFC’s calendar and Sterling was quick to volunteer.
Sterling and Yan have been locked on a collision course for sometime with the general belief being that the two would fight before the end of the year. Stepping in for the now in-need UFC 256 would seemingly make a ton of sense, and while Yan says he is game, apparently the UFC may not be so keen.
The UFC has been somewhat cagey about Sterling receiving the next title shot, however, in August, UFC President Dana White said that Sterling is next in line for the 135-pound title, which seemed to put the issue to bed. Yan himself has stated that he wants to face Sterling next, so it seems likely that any “other plans” the UFC has would involve a different timeline, not a different opponent for Yan.
Sterling himself admits that part of the delay in announcing a fight is that his team is still in contract negotiations with the UFC, but in the end, he still expects that all to be resolved and for the fight to ultimately get booked.
“I think we’re just figuring out contract negotiations,” Sterling said. “Your boy’s gotta get paid. I gotta get paid. I put in a lot of work. . . It’s the right fight to make, and I think the people want it. There’s a lot of hype behind this one, and I can’t wait to steal that thunder.”