Xtreme Couture coach Eric Nicksick says Aljamain Sterling does not deserve the hate being hurled his way since his bantamweight title victory at UFC 259.

Sterling was crowned the new 135-pound champion at the UFC Apex after Petr Yan struck him with an illegal knee while he was a downed opponent. Visibly hurt, referee Mark Smith deemed Sterling unable to continue and, as a result, Yan was disqualified.

Since the fight, Sterling (20-3 MMA, 12-3 UFC) has been showered with criticism for the way things panned out. But Nicksick, who was in Sterling’s corner, explained that the situation took everyone by surprise.

“These things are out of his control, unfortunately,” Nicksick told MMA Junkie Radio. “He didn’t want it to end that way, either, and I’m certain he didn’t want all the backlash for being a victim of an illegal blow, so he didn’t do anything wrong. So (we’re) kinda just looking at the positives, I think, and we kinda rehashed the fight on the way (home). He didn’t really remember too much on the way to the hospital or in the ambulance, and then on the way home I feel like he remembered some of the stuff and then we went over some of the fight and then some of the details of the fight.”

He continued, “From my standpoint, I just wanted him to clear the hands and then I expected Yan to probably throw something like a rear elbow or something coming up. But when I looked at the whole fight, I kinda understood. Yan was probably expecting a re-shot out of Aljo once he elevated and got off his feet, maybe a re-shot and that’s probably why he attempted that knee there but just lost track of where Aljo was and it landed.”

Nicksick says that, while he was surprised that Yan threw the knee, he doesn’t think it was done out of spite. He had nothing but praise for Yan’s performance and was especially impressed by the Russian’s takedown defense.

“I don’t think Yan was this malicious, ‘I’m gonna hurt this guy the wrong way,’” he said. “Unfortunately he just threw the strike at the wrong position, and I heard Mark Smith say he’s grounded, and then, right as he said it, he threw the knee. I was like, ‘Dude! What the hell was that?!’ My immediate reaction was, ‘That’s a DQ,’ or, ‘Let’s get a point,’ or, ‘Let’s get this figured out,’ and then it just kinda started to drag on from that point on.”

He continued, “His takedown defense was on point, but also Aljo’s entries weren’t that great either in that fight. To defend 16 out of the 17 takedowns is pretty freaking impressive, I don’t care who you, are so definitely that and his cardio hung with him. I thought he did a good job. I know Aljo put the pace on him in Round 1, and I think that championship experience out of him really showed. He understood how to pace himself for a five-round fight and I think that’s a big learning curve for anybody. Getting in that five-rounder and how you pace yourself so that’s something I thought he did really well, as well.”

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