UFC 259: Khabib heard Petr Yan's corner tell him to knee Aljamain Sterling


When Khabib Nurmagomedov announced his retirement from MMA last October, he probably assumed that his days of being at the centre of controversy on UFC pay-per-view nights were over.

However, the Russian superstar finds himself the topic of conversation once again, after Petr Yan's disqualification loss to Aljamain Sterling at UFC 259.

An illegal knee strike to the head of Sterling in round four of their bantamweight championship clash cost Yan both the fight and his title on Saturday night.

The brutal blow was outside of the rules as Sterling had been ruled to be a downed fighter by referee Mark Smith at the time the knee was thrown.

Such was the force with which the shot connected, the ringside doctor had no choice but to call the fight off, as Sterling was clearly concussed.

As the bout was directly ended due to a foul, Yan became the first UFC champion to ever lose his belt via disqualification.

It would be one thing if the knee had simply been thrown in error during the heat of the battle, but - according to Khabib - Yan was actually instructed to unleash the knee by a member of his corner.

Corner Error

Yan and his team communicated entirely in their native language of Russian during the fight, including the apparent instruction to knee Sterling while he was down.

As one of the few other Russian speakers inside the UFC Apex, Khabib heard the unfortunate piece of coaching and soon relayed the exchange to the UFC commentary team at Octagonside. 

Khabib is well-known to be friends with Daniel Cormier, who was providing commentary on the event. Khabib apparently shared this knowledge with Cormier and his colleagues at some point during the aftermath of the fight.

Joe Rogan told Sterling of the news as part of his post-fight interview with the American.

"Aljamain, let me tell you what Khabib Nurmagomedov just told us.

He was there in the corner, and Petr Yan asked his corner, ‘Do I hit him now?’ And his corner said, ‘Yes, yes, kick him’, and then he kneed you in the face, which was totally illegal.

“So he got bad advice from his own corner. I don’t know if it was a miscommunication. I don’t know if he thought they were saying hit him in the head, and they were saying hit him in the body."

The advice wasn't just bad for Yan, though, it was catastrophic. On the official scorecards, he was leading at the time of his disqualification and - barring a major turnaround - was on course to retain his title.

Instead, he leaves Las Vegas without his gold, having suffered his first UFC loss. 


Post-Fight Reflection

Yan played down the involvement of his corner in his decision making when asked at the post-fight press conference about the coaching he received.

"To be honest, I didn’t even understand what [my corner] said to me. I was more focused on [Sterling's] hands as he lifted his hands off the ground… I didn't see how he was sitting on his knees, I thought he was squatting down,” Yan told members of the media.

Whether Yan was reacting to his corner's instruction at the time or not is now irrelevant. He must wait until Sterling is cleared to fight again before he will be afforded a shot at redemption.


For Khabib, who was in attendance to corner his friend Islam Makhachev against Drew Dober, all this attention will have been unexpected - and likely unwanted. 

Given what we have learned about Khabib over the years, he would surely want the focus to be on the impressive submission victory scored by his teammate earlier in the evening.

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