There were a lot of first at UFC 259 on Saturday, and none of them were good.
No UFC belt had ever been won via disqualification. No UFC fighter had ever received a belt while crying tears of sadness. No UFC champion had taken an interview when he just sustained a clear head injury and should be receiving medical attention.
It was a surreal scene. An entertaining fight between UFC bantamweight champion Petr Yan and challenger Aljamain Sterling was brought to a screeching halt when Yan inexplicably did this:
You can’t do that.
Aljamain Sterling is the new Bantamweight Champion pic.twitter.com/cbhbbaaXI1
— BetMGM 🦁 (@BetMGM) March 7, 2021
Probably the most illegal knee you will ever see in a UFC title fight.
The aftermath: Sterling being unable to stand, doctors examining the Jamaican American fighter in a silent arena, a crying Sterling receiving Yan's belt and tossing it to the ground. It's probably not hyperbole to call it the least satisfying UFC title win in history, and the situation stunned just about everyone watching.
Sterling tweeted a reaction a while after the fight, promising there will be a rematch:
Not the way I ever want to win a fight. It was close, competitive and filled with action. I felt the knee was intentional, especially after the ref announced I was a downed opponent, so I didn’t expect to be hit.
Yan is a bad dude! WE WILL DO IT AGAIN!#UFC259
— Aljamain Sterling (@funkmasterMMA) March 7, 2021
Meanwhile, UFC fighters and fans were sorting out what they just saw:
I feel awful for Aljo. Nobody, nobody wants to win a fight like this. No way.
— Lauren Murphy (@LaurenMurphyMMA) March 7, 2021
I feel really bad for Aljo
— Lance McCullers Jr. (@lmccullers43) March 7, 2021
— Tony Ferguson (@TonyFergusonXT) March 7, 2021
This call should never be on the fighter. Plain and simple. With a shot like that it’s over. Doc does his job walks in and it’s over.
— Justin Gaethje 🇺🇸 (@Justin_Gaethje) March 7, 2021
— Mike Jackson, Esq. (@TheTruthJackson) March 7, 2021
Heres the thing you cant stall the fight by sitting on your knees. Knees to a grounded opponent should be allowed!
— Demetrious Johnson (@MightyMouse) March 7, 2021
They can’t interview him. Omg. He is definitely concussed. #UFC259
— Tatiana Suarez (@tatianaufc) March 7, 2021
For the record. That move by Yan was boneheaded and illegal and he should lose if his opponent can’t continue.
— Dominick Reyes (@DomReyes) March 7, 2021
Ok that’s too much 🤦🏿♂️
— KAMARU USMAN (@USMAN84kg) March 7, 2021
— cameron jordan (@camjordan94) March 7, 2021
That was very illegal, it doesn’t get much worse than that. Yan was already flirting with danger by throwing those axe kicks when Aljo was down. The doctors made the right call, you can’t let the fighter make the decision to continue after taking a shot like that. #UFC259
— Michael Chiesa (@MikeMav22) March 7, 2021
Completely Illegal knee. I hope @funkmasterMMA is ok. Hard to watch. 🏆champ
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