The 31-year-old Sterling has won five straight in the UFC’s 135lbs fold to announce himself as a serious threat to the world title Yan claimed this past summer on ‘Fight Island’ when he defeated Jose Aldo, winning a belt which had been previously vacated by former champ Henry Cejudo.
It was a fight which many thought should have been between Yan and Sterling, the division’s two in-form fighters right now, but Sterling now says he is growing weary of what he sees as Yan’s reluctance to step into the cage with him.
Responding on Twitter to the news that the UFC’s upcoming bumper event on December 12 is now without a main event due to the Kamaru Usman versus Gilbert Burns title fight being delayed until early next year, Sterling noted that he is “free that day” and asked Yan for an update as to availability.
Yan responded, saying that he heard that the UFC now has “other plans” for the next bantamweight title fight and that Sterling should be “worried” for his position in line.
Not to be outdone, New Yorker Sterling shot back by saying, “The only person I see worried is the guy hiding in Dagestan. Go wrestle at your f*cking gym!”
It has been rumored that the UFC are keeping their cards close to their chest before announcing details of the next bantamweight title defense, in part due to the January return of former champion T.J. Dillashaw who will then be eligible for action after serving a two-year ban for ingesting the banned substance EPO ahead of a flyweight world title fight with Cejudo.
Sterling, though, says that he knows that Yan is taking the threat of facing him seriously. Yan, who is primarily a boxer, has been working extensively on his ground game in his native Russia – evidence, Sterling says, that Yan is concerned about the potential matchup with the submission ace.
“I think there’s still a respect factor there,” Sterling said of Yan recently. “I think he knows I’m a dangerous opponent, otherwise he wouldn’t be in Dagestan wrestling right now. … It’s gonna be a very interesting night.
“I want to see if he can make up for that gap in the wrestling and grappling department in a couple of short months, so I think he’s taking me serious. I’m taking him serious, and I can’t wait for the opportunity.”
Yan has shared pictures of himself training his grappling in Dagestan in recent months, but his latest social media posts show him back in Ekaterinburg with his ‘Archangel Michael’ team.