Sterling said Cejudo’s wrestling style required specific training that would make his injury worse, and he said he needed more time to get healthy. Sterling and Cejudo were expected to meet early this year.
“I’m going to need this bicep to compete at 100 percent, and I don’t take Henry Cejudo lightly. ... I’ve got to make sure I’m in shape, and it’s hard to get in shape when I have this thing compromised with me the entire time,” Sterling said on his Weekly Scraps video podcast. “Yes, I can run, yes I can do sprints – those are all cool, but I need to make sure I have the grappling endurance to go 25 minutes.”
A person close to Sterling, who requested anonymity because they were not publicly authorized to speak on his condition, told MMA Fighting the champ is not expected to have surgery on the torn bicep but is getting physical therapy and visiting with doctors to determine a course of treatment.
Sterling later expanded on this history of his injury.
I fought 2x and did 2 training camps with this partially torn bicep tendon, to keep moving the division for the fans and the UFC.— Aljamain Sterling (@funkmasterMMA) January 10, 2023
Now it’s time to properly address it. I’ve stated this before AND after the last fight. When is it fair for athletes to look after their body? https://t.co/WA5S7hZVrW
The apparent delay is another round of frustration for top bantamweight contender Sean O’Malley, who called for a title shot after beating ex-champ Petr Yan on the undercard of UFC 280 in which Sterling defeated ex-champ T.J. Dillashaw.
“Is [AljoComain] fighting Henry or not I’m confused? O’Malley wrote on Twitter. “He Said his bicep is torn. If that’s the case let me beat up Henry.”
Is AljoComain fighting Henry or not I’m confused ? He Said his bicep is torn. If that’s the case let me beat up Henry— Sean O'Malley (@SugaSeanMMA) January 10, 2023
Cejudo entered the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency’s drug testing pool this past year in anticipation of a comeback. The Olympic gold medalist wrestler stepped away from the sport in 2020 after defending the bantamweight title; he sought bigger paydays to incentivize him against getting out of the fight business.
After a long period of limbo with the UFC, which wasn’t thrilled with his sudden departure, Cejudo jumped to the front of the line when O’Malley didn’t wow UFC President Dana White at UFC 280. O’Malley has gone unbeaten in his past five fights including his win over Yan.
Cejudo later responded to O’Malley’s tweet.
Sean you like a pack of Skittles that had an abortion. Any time, any place.— Henry Cejudo (@HenryCejudo) January 10, 2023
Sterling said after weighing his options, he elected to prioritize his health.
“If you guys want to be mad at me, it is what it is. I’ve had fans mad at me nonstop for 13 months. It’s water off a duck’s back. I can’t push myself to do something I can’t physically do. I’ve fought twice in a calendar year, and I’ve fought both of those fights compromised ... and I got through those fights. ... It’s the fight before the fight. We’re fighters, we all go in there compromised, but what I’m trying to not have happen is to go through an entire training camp, or almost an entire training camp, waste four to six weeks, maybe seven? Who wants to see that? Why am I going to risk a third time, where if I completely snap it, I have to have surgery.”
He said Cejudo had “physical advantages” because he hadn’t been actively fighting and was “doing who knows what” while out of the drug testing pool. He stopped short of accusing Cejudo of performance-enhancing drug use, but pointed out a loophole in USADA’s testing program upon a fighter’s retirement.
Sterling later responded to O’Malley on Twitter.