Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) bantamweight champion Aljamain Sterling is still recovering from neck surgery and would rather take shit from fickle fight fans (and most of his rivals bantamweights) than risk a life of paralysis, so the promotion opted to create an interim title in his absence.
Seems to be a lot of that going around these days.
Scheduled to compete for the substitute strap are top-ranked contender Cory Sandhagen and former division kingpin Petr Yan. “No Mercy” lost the 135-pound title by way of disqualification at UFC 259, leading some to question the legitimacy of Sterling’s place atop the division throne.
“I think everyone sees Yan as the champ of the division, the best in the division,” Sandhagen told The MMA Hour. “I think in this case it will [count as a real championship]. Now that I’m fighting for a UFC belt, even though it’s an interim one, it would feel like I was the champ. It would feel that way. I would definitely know that that I have some quieting of the voices maybe about the Sterling loss that I had and the T.J. [Dillashaw] loss that I had, but those will be very exciting rematches in the division also. I think I’m excited. It would feel like I was the champ if I do win against Yan.”
Working against Sandhagen (14-3) is the fact that he’s coming off a split-decision loss to former champion TJ Dillashaw last July. In addition, “The Sandman” was submitted by Sterling at UFC 250 back in June 2020, giving him a 3-2 record across his last five bouts.
Yan (15-2), meanwhile, won seven straight under the UFC banner before the disqualification loss to Sterling. His Sandhagen fight is booked for the UFC 267 co-main event on Sat., Oct. 30, 2021 inside Etihad Arena on “Fight Island” in Abu Dhabi.
To see who else is fighting at UFC 267 click here.