has heard all the naysayers over the past year.

Sterling’s championship victory over Petr Yan at
UFC 259 in March 2021 has come with an asterisk for many in the MMA
community due to the nature of the “The Funk Master’s” victory,
which came when he was rendered unable to continue due to an
illegal knee in the fourth round. As a result, Sterling was able to
take the 135-pound belt home thanks to a disqualification victory.
Yan was ahead on two of the three judges’ scorecards at the time of
the stoppage.

The rematch between the two bantamweights has been delayed as
Sterling recovered from
neck surgery
, a procedure that helped to alleviate an issue
that has plagued him for years. Sterling was sidelined longer than
originally anticipated, which of course subjected him to more
negative comments.

Sterling will finally get the chance to settle the score when he
faces Yan for a second time in a bantamweight championship
unification bout in the UFC 273 co-main event on Saturday at Vystar
Veteran’s Memorial Arena in Jacksonville, Fla.

“That’s the most frustrating part of this whole thing, not being
able to compete and shut these guys up,” Sterling recently told TMZ
Sports. “It’s almost like being that animal locked up in a zoo and
you can do all this things, poke at it, throw things at it, but it
can’t retaliate because it’s locked up. For me, those chains come
free [Saturday] and I finally get a chance to put my hands on this
guy. It’s gonna be so rewarding to see the shock in people’s eyes
when I’m out there and actually get to put my hands on him and we
can see who’s really who.”

While Sterling was healing, Yan captured the interim crown with a
five-round verdict over Corey Sandhagen at UFC 267 this past
October. Sterling is listed as a considerable underdog heading into
the rematch with his Russian rival, but he is more than confident
regarding his ability to win in more decisive fashion.

“Any doubt, not at all. Any man that can bleed can be beat down.
Not just beat down, broken,” Sterling said. “And that’s what I plan
to do to this guy at UFC 273.

“I know the Vegas oddsmakers have me as a big underdog. This is
what everyone wants to go out of their way to tell me. I don’t give
a s—t. I bet on me. I know that betting on me is right. I’ve bet on
me the last six times and I’ve won every single time. So let’s go
out there and do it again, prove the last one was a mishap and
prove this was the way it should’ve went down the first time.”

While the previous Yan outcome might not feel like a victory,
there’s no denying Sterling has emerged as one of the sport’s top
bantamweights in recent years with a six-fight winning streak that
includes wins over the likes of Sandhagen, Pedro
, Jimmie River and Cody

“I feel like a machine right now. I am a certified weapon right now
and ready for battle,” Sterling said. “I can’t wait to go out there
and unleash these tools and put a beatdown on this guy that he’s
been deserving for well over a year.

“… When they lock that door he’s gonna get Will Smith’d and after
that it’s gonna be a lot worse than that.. it’s gonna be a
beatdown,” Sterling added. “This guy, he’s tough, he’s good. You
can look at the stats from the last fight and those are all to me
fake news. He’s gonna feel pressure like he’s never felt before and
this time when I take him down, he ain’t getting up.” is
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