It is one of the most brutal competitions in sport, but not even in the UFC anything goes. This morning there was an unusual case, a champion was stripped of his belt for a criminal action: kneeing his opponent when he had three supports on the ground. That is one of the few exceptions where the regulations of the biggest MMA competition do not allow hitting. It happened in the combat between the Russian Petr Yan and the american Aljamain Sterling, inside UFC 259. Until last night the champion gave a brutal knee to his rival when he was kneeling on the canvas. The referee, Mark Smith, stopped the fight and the judges decided to disqualify Yan by proclaiming Sterling the new UFC bantamweight champion.
‘No mercy‘, as Yan is nicknamed, a la Cobra Kay, was dominating the fight after a start in which the New Yorker printed enough intensity to try to make him uncomfortable. He did not succeed and Petr was growing showing his punch and technique, sending Sterling to the canvas on several occasions before the moment of the controversy.
It was in the fourth round, when Sterling was on his knees, at which point the hitherto champion kneeled him in the face that left his rival lying on the ground and forced the referee to stop the fight.
Finally, the judges gave the fight to Sterling by disqualifying Yan. The American received the belt with an incredulous look and took it off by throwing it to the canvas in the same octagon. You might have expected the fight to be declared void, but the rules are the rules, and No Mercy’s disqualification meant his crowning at bantamweight.
“Too bad it all turned out like this,” Sterling exclaimed to the cameras as he made his way to the locker room. The North American fighter acknowledged, already cold at the press conference, that “he really could not continue” after the knee. “I am very sorry that it ended like this, but it was totally illegal and I was in no condition to continue,” he admitted.
I’m very sorry that it ended like this, but it was totally illegal and I was in no condition to continue.
Yan, for his part, apologized via Twitter and wished the new champion a speedy recovery. “I did not want to launch an illegal hit, I just made a big mistake and paid for it,” he acknowledged. In another post, this time on Instagram, he revealed that “he was concentrating on his hands, he was waiting for him to pick them up from the canvas to hit! I overlooked that one knee was touching the octagon. Thank you very much to everyone who supported me and cared about me! I feel sorry for those I disappointed. Honestly, I made a mistake: I didn’t want to do anything illegal.