Petr Yan was crowned the UFC interim bantamweight champion in Abu Dhabi early on Sunday, then promptly called out “clown” main title-holder Aljamain Sterling.
The Russian, who relinquished his crown to the American in March in controversial circumstances, earned a unanimous decision win against a valiant Cory Sandhagen in the penultimate bout at UFC 267 at Etihad Arena in Abu Dhabi. All three judges scored the clash 49-46.
Yan, though, gave credit to his American rival, who took the fight as a late replacement for Sterling.
"Everyone knows I'm the real champion, I'm here to fight anyone,” Yan said. “It's either going to be [former champion TJ] Dillashaw or the clown Sterling.”
The bout, played out in front of a vociferous crowd in the capital, was one of the many highlights on an action-packed card. The level of striking was a sight to behold, with the ever-classy Sandhagen magnanimous in defeat.
“He’s a great fighter, man,” he said. “A great fighter.”