In a perfect world, Aljamain Sterling would have returned to defend his bantamweight title against Petr Yan in December but the UFC had other plans.
That’s according to Sterling, who addressed news that he has been forced out of his upcoming rematch against Yan that was scheduled at UFC 267 on Oct. 30 in Abu Dhabi.
“Let’s clear the air today. I am not injured for my real fans, family, and friends that are asking/wondering,” Sterling wrote on Instagram. “As always, I like to share the truth and be transparent with my fan base that actually give a sh*t about fighter’s health. Training has been going well but I’ve been struggling to get my body to push past two rounds in sparring sessions.
“The fatigue that sets in and the cramping still lingers, which my surgeon said is due to the nerves still recovering from the long-term trauma, and surgery I just had. Nothing I can do about that, other than show up in another shell of myself and risk wasting the surgery and maybe getting severely hurt!!”
Sterling says he initially asked for the Yan fight later in the year but the UFC wanted to book the rematch for the upcoming card at the end of October.
He pushed himself to get ready for the date but Sterling’s neck never had adequate time to recover from the surgery, which has caused him problems during the training camp.
“I originally wanted to fight in December but the plans were pushed up earlier,” Sterling said. “Unfortunately, my body isn’t agreeing with me and I asked for an extension and asked for Petr Yan to wait, so that I will be the first man in the UFC to beat his ass.”
While Sterling was hoping to delay the fight, multiple sources told MMA Fighting that the UFC is looking to book an interim title fight involving Yan and another opponent on Oct. 30 instead.
Nothing has been signed yet but Cory Sandhagen is currently the leading candidate to score the fight against Yan with an interim title on the line. The winner would then move onto a fight with Sterling to unify the bantamweight title.
Sterling added that he brought in Adrian Yanez to work with him this week to see if his body can adapt to the extra strain in order to compete but by all accounts the UFC has already started seeking alternative plans for the upcoming show in Abu Dhabi.
“I flew in Adrian Yanez to help with training looks,” Sterling explained. “I want to see how this week goes and see if overtraining was the real issue for all the fatigue, since I was playing physical “catch-up” for fighting much sooner than expected.
“Thankfully the UFC team understands how serious spine surgery can be and are allowing me the extra time to get my body right so that there are NO EXCUSES when I fight again.”
Sterling also made it a point to celebrate his teammate Merab Dvalishvili following his incredible comeback win over Marlon Moraes at UFC 266 on Saturday night.
“To the haters, trying to take away my attention from my teammate, Merab Dvalishvili, to talk about myself and my situation isn’t what I wanted to do,” Sterling said.
“Merab looked amazing on Saturday night and had a wicked performance! My situation is complicated. It’s the neck that we’re talking about! This is the best I’ve ever felt, waking up in the morning and being able to live life pain-free from nerve issues that’s I’ve had for 10 plus years now.”
With UFC 267 just four weeks away, the promotion will likely move quick to secure a new opponent for Yan for the co-main event with light heavyweight champion Jan Blachowicz headlining the card for his title defense against Glover Teixeira.
Read Sterling’s full statement from Instagram below: