It has been a long road to setting up a rematch between Yan (16-2) and Sterling (20-3), following their controversial UFC 259 title fight. On two occasions, a booking to run back their March 2020 fight that ended by disqualification had to be rescheduled. The most recent instance came when the matchup was moved back a month from UFC 272 in March, to April at UFC 273.
It was a peculiar decision by the organization to have the fight serve as the co-main event on a card that has a title fight headliner — between featherweights Alexander Volkanovski and Chan Sung Jung — instead of just lead UFC 272 when a planned Volkanovski and Max Holloway booking fell through.
Sean O’Malley thinks Petr Yan vs Aljamain Sterling 2 lacks star power
It only became odder when a five-round grudge match between Colby Covington and Jorge Masvidal — two men well outside of title contention — was announced as the new UFC 272 main event. The notion of a title bout not being an obvious main event, for a PPV in need of a new headliner, drew the attention of O’Malley (15-1). And “Sugar” wonders if the promotion doesn’t have a lot of faith in the lineal and interim champions being able to lead an event that costs ESPN+ subscribers an extra $74.99 to view.
“You know what is crazy to me, that Petr and ‘Aljo’ can’t main event their own pay-per-view. So [the UFC 272] main event [of Volkanovski vs Holloway] pulled out and they [Yan and Sterling] could not just be the main event? They’re not big enough,” O’Malley said on his Timbo Sugar Show podcast [h/t BJPenn]. “It is so weird. This is the best division in the UFC and they can’t even headline their own pay-per-view?”
Neither Yan nor Sterling have headlined a UFC card, including fight night events, during their tenures in the promotion.
The duo has developed a heated rivalry with more than a year of trash talk after Yan lost the title when he scored with a fourth-round illegal knee while Sterling was grounded. The Russian was leading on the cards and seemed on his way to getting a technical knockout before the foul. On paper, the bout seems to have enough heat between two talented 135-pounders to garner notable fan interest.
However, Sterling did not take the critique lying down and fired back at O’Malley via his Twitter accont on Saturday afternoon.
“Suga tits, be careful when speaking about the top dogs in my division. Last time you barked at a ranked fighter, you made a remix to Tony Lanez’s single “Broke Leg,” featuring the Ecuadorian. #unranked #undefeated,” Sterling wrote.
Does “Sugar” have a point, and it is a bad look that a championship rematch did not get a PPV main event slot?