It looks like fans and Petr Yan may be in for a long wait for Aljamain Sterling to return for a UFC 259 rematch.
Petr Yan entered UFC 259 as bantamweight champion but would go on to lose the strap after illegally kneeing Sterling in the face. This left all parties involved with an unpleasant aftertaste in their mouths about the outcome of the fight because there was no clear, definitive, and conventional winner determined.
While a disqualification is officially a victory, it is not the type of conclusive result that has the general public considering the winner to necessarily be the better fighter that night (see Matt Hamill over Jon Jones). Therefore, everyone, including Sterling, has voiced a desire to have a more decisive resolution, and the only way for that to happen is for the two elite bantamweights to run it back.
Speaking in an interview with MiddleEasy recently, Sterling revealed why this doesn’t appear to be in the cards for the immediate future.
“I’m a little banged up, lingering issues from ten years ago,” Sterling began. “It’s just gotten progressively worse with every single fight camp. I’m at a point now where surgery is potentially on the table, just getting some muscle weakness in my arm. If I don’t have some miracle release of my muscles where I can actually start to do push-ups and pull-ups again, I really don’t know what else I’m gonna be able to do other than the surgery.”
Aljamain Sterling Lays Out Possible Return Timeline
While the timing of Sterling potentially needing surgery may come across as “convenient” for some critics of Sterling or general cynics, he did make reference to these problematic neck issues prior to UFC 259 during an interview with MMA reporter Damon Martin. Following the event, Sterling has now revealed that he is currently unable to spar, work out, or fully extend his left arm.
The flare-up began with training partner Gustavo Lopez injuring Sterling’s neck during a “flow roll” warm-up, and the injury was exacerbated during his bout with Yan.
“I don’t think letting Petr Yan pick me up and slam me on my neck plus the knee, that combination of everything, I think that was the straw that broke the camel’s back between those three things was the perfect storm. Now, I’m in this position,” Sterling said.
Sterling would then lay out the specific procedural options he could be looking at, one of which could see the new champ sidelined for up to nine months before he can even begin to fully train.
“There’s one that’s a fusion. That one’s about nine months before you can start regular activity again in terms of training at a high level,” Sterling said. “And then, the other one is an artificial disk replacement, which a couple guys have gotten before, Chris Weidman being one of them, Al Jouban, I think Tristan Connelly actually got one, too.
“So that one is only three months. But before you can actually schedule a fight, they would like to see you…at least what I was told from the doctor, let’s wait till four and a half months before we start really cranking out hardcore training. So it can be anywhere from 4 ½ to six months, just depending on how well my body heals (from the procedure).”
Sterling believes that the most likely option is that he will go the second route and be out up to six months. He stated that he had a meeting with his doctor soon that will give him more information on the next steps that will be taken.
Petr Yan Rematch Already Offered & Rejected
With these significant issues standing in the way of a swift turnaround, Sterling was quick to confirm Petr Yan’s accusation that he turned down the rematch between the two, which had already been offered by the UFC roughly a week after UFC 259.
“They actually asked me to fight May 15 almost a week after the fight after I’d just been…when my head was not in this universe. But yeah, I had to decline that,” Sterling confirmed.
To reiterate, Aljamain Sterling revealed in the interview that he would be meeting with a doctor this week, so there could be further updates coming soon on this developing story.
Keep it locked on MMANews.com for any updates on the potential timeline for an Aljamain Sterling return and what is next for Petr Yan and the rest of the UFC’s bantamweight division in the meantime.