Aljamain Sterling to Undergo Neck Surgery, Expects to Defend Title Later This Year

By: Tristen Critchfield
Apr 11, 2021

Aljamain Sterling will have neck surgery this week to repair on issue that has plagued him for approximately 10 years.

The UFC bantamweight champion told ESPN that he has been diagnosed with a herniated disc and that doctors will operate on his C6-C7 vertebrae on Thursday. Sterling hopes to return from the procedure to defend the belt in a rematch with Petr Yan later this year.

"They told me I will heal in three months, and can start doing cardio to get myself ready," Sterling said. "They wouldn't want to see me take a fight until they see everything has fused in my neck correctly. Five months would be ideal, if I heal up really quick. I'm excited. The faster I heal up, the faster I can fight. We'll find out in the next three months, and get something on schedule.”

Sterling won the bantamweight crown at UFC 259 on March 6, when Yan landed an illegal knee in the fourth round, leaving “The Funk Master” unable to continue. After the result, UFC president Dana White said the promotion would try to schedule a rematch as soon as possible.

Sterling told ESPN that he would ideally be ready to face Yan again by October or November. The neck surgery had been postponed for years, but the Serra-Longo fight Team member revealed that the fight with Yan and the foul that ended it was the “final straw on the camel’s back” regarding the procedure.

Regardless of the timetable, Sterling does not believe its necessary for the UFC to create an interim bantamweight title in his absence.

"I can't see a reason for an interim title fight when Yan won the belt in July [2020], was scheduled to fight me in December, and then had to push it to March," Sterling said. "He had enough time to heal from whatever fake injury he had. If he got that luxury, I should have the luxury of addressing an injury I've put off for years. Why would they rush an interim title for the sake of it?”

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