Photo by Cooper Neill/Zuffa LLC
Yan defended his title for the first time after stopping Jose Aldo in the fifth round at UFC 251 in July and was starting to separate himself from the challenger as the fight went on. “No Mercy” was on his way to winning the fourth round through the eyes of many watching before he landed an illegal knee to the head of Sterling with less than a minute left in the stanza.
After the doctor checked on Sterling on multiple occasions, it was deemed he couldn’t continue and was awarded the win, and the UFC bantamweight title via disqualification.
The ending was unfortunate in a highly contested championship battle. In Font’s opinion, the fight was playing out the way he expected prior to the final blow landing.
“I figured it would play out like that,” Font told MMA Fighting while appearing on What the Heck. “I was curious to see how Aljamain would do in the first two rounds and if he would be able to keep that pace up. He was doing all right. He wasn’t landing much but he was definitely busy.
“I was impressed by how patient Yan was, but I also saw some holes, saw some good things. Overall, I thought that fight was okay, I guess. Then, obviously you got the ending. But I wasn’t too impressed with Aljamain except for the fact he could keep pushing the pace. If anything, I was a little more impressed with how slick Yan was with his takedowns, his little trips and all that.
“It was a tough fight. They did their thing, I just want them to hurry up and do the rematch so they can get out the way so I can get myself in there.”
After over a year away due to a torn ACL, Font returned to action at UFC Vegas 17 in December and stopped former title challenger Marlon Moraes in the first round. The New England Cartel standout leaped into the top-five with his third straight win, and even bumped up two spots since.
With championship aspirations, Font couldn’t help but be a little frustrated with how the title fight played out earlier this month.
“I’m just thinking I have to wait a lot longer, man,” Font said. “But I was also confused with what was going on. Once it got to that two-minute mark, I was like, ‘There’s no way he’s getting back up and fighting. How does this play out?’ But it played out the way it played out so it looks like I got to wait a little longer, find out who I’m fighting and they got to do this again.
“I’m just a little upset, man. Like, sh*t, hurry up. Let’s move this division on.”
Sterling has taken a lot of criticism from fans, media, and fellow fighters since becoming the champion. In a recent interview with MMA Fighting, “Funk Master” clapped back at the critics and doubled down on the fact that he is not celebrating being a champion.
Font was asked to give his take on the backlash Sterling has received and how he might handle things if he was in the same boat.
“It’s tough when you’re in Aljamain’s position,” Font explained. “He’s out there and he’s very opinionated. When you have the Anthony Smith and Jon Jones situation, there’s a [similar] situation that played out and you have something to point at.
“I feel bad for him as far as the critics and media roasting him, but technically, it probably wasn’t the worst move either. It is what it is. I kind of feel bad for him but it is what it is.
“I don’t know how I would handle that position after being kneed in the face like that. Financially, it makes sense, right? It’s definitely a smart move but I don’t know how I would deal with that. I don’t know what he was feeling, how tired he was, but it’s definitely a sh*tty situation in a title fight with someone who should know the rules.”
The depth at 135 makes it one of the most intriguing divisions in the sport. The championship situation needs to play itself out, but with fellow contenders Cory Sandhagen, T.J. Dillashaw, Cody Garbrandt and Jose Aldo looming in the background, Font has an idea to move the division along as quickly, and entertaining a way as possible.
“I say you do T.J. vs. Sandhagen, book the rematch [for the title] and give me Cody Garbrandt,” Font stated. “Make a supercard for the 35ers.
“The rumor is May. I’m looking at May, hopefully. I’m looking at a guy like Cody Garbrandt, maybe Jose Aldo, but I’m looking at May. Just waiting for that contract.”