“Yeah, he’ll get the shot after that.” That was the line from Dana White to reporters about Aljamain Sterling’s position as top contender ahead of Petr Yan’s planned fight with Jose Aldo, back in June. Those words came just after the longtime Serra-Longo fighter choked out streaking prospect Cory Sandhagen at UFC 250.
What a difference a month can make.
On July 12th, in Abu Dhabi, at UFC 251, Yan handed Aldo a 5th round TKO loss to take the vacated bantamweight title—becoming only the second Russian fighter in MMA history to win a non-tournament UFC belt. Should make for an easy next booking, right? But the days since Yan’s win have only seen the UFC president seemingly walk back his support for Sterling’s claim to a shot at gold.
“Yeah, I don’t know,” White said of Sterling’s title shot, scratching his head at the UFC 251 post-fight presser. “I don’t know. We haven’t pulled that trigger yet.”
“I don’t know,” he reiterated, when asked if there were any other contenders instead of Sterlinig. “We’re not even thinking about that yet. If you guys asked me about any other fighters or any other fights? I’m just not even there.”
A week later, following Deiveson Figueiredo’s dominating win over Joe Benavidez for the flyweight title, he refrain about a title shot for Sterling was more of the same. “I don’t know,” Dana White once again told the press, following the UFC’s July 18th event. “He’s in there. He’s up there. He’s one of them.”
Word is out that Marlon Moraes has accepted an offer from the UFC to fight Cody Garbrandt in October. It seems a long way out for the UFC to wait for the winner of that bout to take on Yan, and there don’t appear to be any other contenders in the moment. So, what exactly the UFC is waiting for right now is anyone’s guess.
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