Top UFC bantamweight contender Petr Yan believes the UFC is hurting its own reputation by pushing ahead with a bantamweight title fight between champ Henry Cejudo and challenger Dominick Cruz.
The controversy surrounding this Cejudo vs. Cruz fight stems from the fact that Cruz, despite being a decorated former champ, has not fought since a decisive 2016 loss to Cody Garbrandt.
Petr Yan, meanwhile, is on an impressive win-streak, and is widely believed to have earned a title shot. The same can be argued for his fellow contenders Aljamain Sterling and Cory Sandhagen.
“To be honest, moments like this in UFC kind of upset me,” Yan told MMA Fighting’s Eurobash podcast of this Cejudo vs. Cruz fight (transcript via MMA Fighting). “He didn’t fight for three years and now he’s getting a title shot? It kind of upsets me and it’s a big hit for UFC reputation, in my opinion.”
Cejudo was originally expected to defend his title against former featherweight champ Jose Aldo. Aldo, however, ended up getting stuck in Brazil, at which point Cruz was offered a title shot.
Yan admits he isn’t certain why he wasn’t offered the opportunity.
“Maybe it’s because I’m not in America that I wasn’t granted this title shot, or maybe it’s because I’m not American they didn’t give me this opportunity. Maybe it’s because they’re afraid of me and they don’t want to give the chance to win another title to a Russian fighter, maybe they don’t want two Russian champions,” Yan said.
“I don’t think that [UFC’s] main goal, but to me it’s kind of unclear why they gave it to Cruz. I don’t think, in my opinion, he’s going to bring a lot of pay-per-views buys,” Yan added. “I don’t know why, it’s kind of a difficult question for me.”
“I think there are more active and deserving fighters that could fight for the belt and I don’t understand why they’d give it to a guy that’s been so inactive for so long.”
Petr Yan concluded by saying that he’s reluctant to blame Cejudo for this situation, but finds it strange that the UFC is is supporting the champ’s plans.
“I can’t say I lost respect for [Cejudo],” Yan said. “I know that he’s playing his game, he’s doing his part, but it’s weird that the UFC also agrees with him – that’s kind of weird.”
This article first appeared on BJPENN.com on 4/21/2020.