Aljamain Sterling clears up ‘weird’ ticket mishap that kept him out of UFC 296

Aljamain Sterling has seen plenty in his fighting career, but his UFC 296 experience was a first.

The former bantamweight champion expected to be inside Las Vegas’ T-Mobile Arena for the UFC’s last pay-per-view event of 2023, but when he and his crew arrived at the venue they were told there were no tickets available. Sterling commented on the situation on social media, apologizing to fans who he may have brushed off as he waited outside.

UFC CEO Dana White was asked about Sterling’s ticket mishap following Saturday’s event and he said that it was his understanding that Sterling’s tickets were set up through a sponsor and that he didn’t know why they might have been pulled. Sterling addressed White’s response on his YouTube channel.

“I’m not trying to fan the flames, I think somewhere there was a little bit of a disconnect,” Sterling said. “The only thing I didn’t really understand is someone sent me the clip of Dana saying that the tickets were through a sponsor. I don’t know what that was about because I’ve never had tickets from a sponsor for any of the UFC fights, I always go through the same exact channels every single time.”

“This is the first time that that’s actually happened, so that was weird,” Sterling continued. “I don’t know if that’s what someone told him, but no, I actually asked for tickets through the UFC channels and just, unfortunately—The worst part about it was not even the saying ‘no’ part, because obviously it’s a big event. I know a lot of people are coming, they’re spending top dollar. We’re fighters coming in, they comp us for free, especially if there’s a relevant fighter in the weight class. Title fight, Belal Muhammad’s got to be their kind of a thing, obviously Shakat’s fighting too. There’s fighters that are in the presence of this event that make sense for possible future matchups. So for me, there really wasn’t anything there, but I just wish either way, regardless, I think I should have been informed a little bit earlier.”

Sterling added that he and his associates later enjoyed watching the pay-per-view event at a rooftop bar. There was an attempt made by UFC staff to rectify the situation, but by the time they reached out Sterling had already left the arena.

“I’m not going to say it’s on purpose either,” Sterling said. “I’m going to chalk it up that it was someone dropped the ball. Maybe they didn’t put the request in when I asked for both events in advance, because I normally ask for both. Whenever I’m going to an event or multiple events, I just put all the dates in and I’ve never had this situation happen. All the events they say yes for, confirm, I ask for a certain amount of tickets and they’ll let me know if they can or can’t do that. Like, ‘Yeah, we can do this, but we can’t do that.’ I’m like, cool, whatever, I’m not here to make a scene or anything. I’m coming as a guest to the event, although we are athletes, we compete for this.

“So I just tried to do everything the right way and they tried to salvage it later on to go hang out in the lounge, but like I said, I would have hung out in the lounge. I even asked for that before we even left the arena, but by the time anyone got back to us, we were already at the other event, I already opened the tab.”

Miscommunication over fighter seating is nothing new for the UFC. In July 2022, Josh Emmett and Urijah Faber complained that Emmett—a top contender at the time—was not granted a cageside seat for a championship fight between Alexander Volkanovski and Max Holloway at UFC 276. White also attributed that mixup to Emmett accidentally taking seats from sponsors as opposed to the UFC and Emmett later acknowledged the miscommunication.

Sterling isn’t bothered that strings couldn’t be pulled for him to be closer to the octagon at UFC 296 and he’s making a note to be more careful when acquiring tickets in the future.

“They did reach out, which was cool,” Sterling said. “I didn’t hear from [UFC executive] Hunter [Campbell] or Dana at all—I heard from the matchmaker, I heard from some of the other guys who coordinate the tickets—obviously they’re running the event, they’re sitting cageside, so I don’t expect them to be like, ‘Hey, I’m answering the phone for one of my fighters calling me right now.’ I get it, they’re at work.

“So that was just a very unique situation. Hopefully, it never happens again and from now on, for me, always confirm before leaving the house because that was just crazy. I just could never do that again because that was rough.”

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