LAS VEGAS – When it was time for faceoffs after Thursday’s UFC 259 news conference, Petr Yan opted not to look Aljamain Sterling’s way, which was odd but maybe not unexpected.

Earlier on the dais, Yan (15-1 MMA, 7-0 UFC) and Sterling (19-3 MMA, 11-3 UFC) dished a little trash talk to each other in person for the first time. It started after the UFC bantamweight champion was asked simply about moving to American Top Team for his training camp.

“Everything went great,” Yan answered in Russian through an interpreter. “Every time I’m learning something new, and I will try to show it in my fight.”

That’s when Sterling jumped in. “I hope they teach you how to catch a mouse.”

“I’m catching the mouse my whole life,” Yan shot back.

“Mouse don’t strangle people, though,” Sterling retorted.

“And you’re one of them,” said Yan, closing out the exchange.

Heading into Saturday night’s title fight, rest assured that there’s heat between Yan and Sterling. It’s been that way since last summer, when Sterling called Yan a “paper champion” on Twitter.

They crossed paths earlier this week at the UFC Performance Institute for the first time. Yan refused to acknowledge even that occurred when asked about it.

“To be honest, I’m not really noticing him,” Yan said. “Even here, he’s here or not. It doesn’t matter. He’s invisible to me.”

Sterling clarified.

“We made eye contact. That was pretty much it,” Sterling said. “We acknowledged each other, and that’s as far as it goes.”

Both Yan and Sterling figure to be in peak form Saturday at the UFC Apex. Yan, who’s on a 10-fight winning streak, is making his first title defense against Sterling after claiming the vacant 135-pound belt last July with a fifth-round TKO win over Jose Aldo. Sterling brings his own five-fight winning streak into the bout, most recently scoring an impressive first-round rear-naked choke submission of Cory Sandhagen last June.

Their matchup comes with intrigue, as it’s no secret where each man excels, which begs two questions: Does Yan believe Sterling’s standup is good enough to hang with his? Does Sterling believe Yan’s grappling is good enough to hang with his?

Both men are supremely confident.

“He has good striking,” Yan said, “But compared to mine, I’m sure I’m gonna (light) him up.”

Said Sterling: “I think Petr has very good grappling. I just don’t think it’s to the level of mine, with the level of competition that I drill with on a daily basis at Serra BJJ. And some of the competition that he’s faced, I got to train with those guys, as well. I’d like to think that I’m one of the elite guys out there. If I get his back like those guys have got his back in the past, it’s gonna be a problem. It’s gonna be a short night.”

As far as UFC president Dana White is concerned, the timing couldn’t be better for this fight.

“I feel like this fight is one of those fights where it’s two guys in their prime, that’s the perfect time for them to meet each other,” White said. “… This is a perfect matchup at the perfect time.”