Petr Yan has risen to the top of the UFC bantamweight division, but Aljamain Sterling doesn't think he's proven he deserves to be the champion yet.
"He needs to beat someone who's actually in the top five for people to take him serious as a champ," Sterling told ESPN's Brett Okamoto. "He's tough, he's got serious skills, but credibility wise, he hasn't beaten anybody."
Sterling, the No. 1-ranked bantamweight, is scheduled to challenge Yan for the belt at UFC 259 on March 6. Yan became champion last summer with a fifth-round TKO over Jose Aldo, a former featherweight titleholder who was 0-1 in the division and ranked No. 6 at the time. Before that, "No Mercy" beat UFC Hall of Famer Urijah Faber, who wasn't in title contention heading into their 2019 clash.
While Sterling was impressed by Yan's recent victories, he believes the current champ "leapfrogged" him and fellow top contender Cory Sandhagen for a shot at the title.
The 31-year-old, who submitted Sandhagen last June to extend his winning streak to five and earn a title shot, isn't keeping his game plan against Yan a secret.
"I just need one takedown," Sterling said. "I can shoot 100 times, he can stop it 100 times. I get one takedown on that 101st takedown attempt, I get him down on his back, it's going to be a long night for that guy."