Yan calls Sandhagen ‘worthy contender’ ahead of UFC interim title showdown, takes another shot at sidelined ‘coward’ Sterling

Former UFC bantamweight champion Petr Yan has spoken on the elite MMA organization's decision to replace his scheduled opponent and successor Aljamain Sterling with the division's number three contender Cory Sandhagen.

Dethroned in March at UFC 259, when he was up on the cards only to drop an illegal knee on Sterling in the fourth round which handed the Jamaican-American the title, Yan has campaigned for a rematch ever since.

Sterling effectively held up the division by then undergoing neck surgery, with Yan insisting he was chickening out of a second meeting.

And with just over a month to spare until an Abu Dhabi date in at UFC 267, Sterling dropped out due to lingering neck issues with the war of words with Yan raging harder than ever.

Sterling has accused Yan of "talking sh*t about me and my fiancee" and then blocking him on social media, which the Russian denies.

But in the meantime, Yan has demanded another fight against a "top five, top seven, top ten" opponent while vowing to "show you who is the real champ".

With a hole on the October 30 card to fill, UFC boss Dana White has given Yan his wish by swiftly matching him with Sandhagen for the interim title with the winner expected to face Sterling.

Yan has already commented on his new opponent, dubbing Sandhagen "a worthy contender for the title".

"He’s a dangerous, tough fighter, which he showed in a great fight with Dillashaw," Yan said through the press officer of his team 'Archangel Mikhail', referencing Sandhagen's split-decision defeat to former 135lbs ruler last time out.

"Yes, he lost that fight, but TJ is recovering after his operation, so they gave the chance to Cory," Yan added. 

“To be honest, I’m not satisfied that it’s only for the interim title, but that’s UFC politics, I won’t get into that.    

“I’m glad that I can go out and do my job – a lot of people are waiting for my fight.

"I’m not thinking about Sterling anymore – he’s a coward. First I’ll beat Sandhagen, and then after that we’ll find out what happens next.”

As Sterling has said on Twitter he will cross paths with Yan "in due time" and that it is "the only fight I want", the agent of retired lightweight legend Khabib Nurmagomedov and reigning welterweight champion Kamara Usman has leapt to his defense.

"Everyone gives [Sterling] sh*t, [but] I don’t know what the hell they’re talking about," said Ali Abdelaziz.

"I had a neck surgery and [at the] minimum you need 9-12 months to heal.

"And if you rush it, you will be paralyzed for the rest of your life," he warned.

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Aljamian Sterling (inset, left) has accused Petr Yan (right) of taking aim at his fiancee © Instagram / funkmastermma | © Stephen R Sylvanie / USA Today Sports via Reuters
‘P**** blocked me’: UFC’s Petr Yan denies ‘talking sh*t’ about crock Aljamain Sterling and his fiancee as bitter title row rages

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