Aljamain Sterling cleared any confusion as to why he isn’t competing later this month.
Sterling was expected to defend his bantamweight title for the first time in a rematch against Petr Yan at the UFC 267 event taking place October 30 in Abu Dhabi.
However, Sterling recently pulled out of the contest as he cited lingering neck issues following surgery with the doctors not clearing him to compete. An interim bantamweight title fight has since been booked to replace it with Yan taking on Cory Sandhagen.
Prior to that, many called for Sterling to be stripped of the title while others accused him of faking an injury so that he wouldn’t have to compete against Yan.
For anyone who seriously believed that, Sterling decided set the record straight.
“There seems to be a lot of confusion,” Sterling said on the Schmozone podcast. “People would make it sound like I stubbed my toe. I didn’t stub my toe, twist my ankle — I had a neck surgery which is a very serious thing. It controls a lot of your body parts, it’s the spinal column which controls everything.
“The doctor cleared me for November 1 to start a training camp to take a fight. … the October date was there and I was just going to try to do what I can do. But as we went through the training camp, I had a very difficult time getting it together, trying to string together three rounds.”
Sterling Ultimately Pleased With Decision To Withdraw
For Sterling, his body simply needed more time to fully recover from surgery as his endurance and conditioning was taking a big hit. Pulling out of the fight was very conflicting, however.
Many fans — as well as a few fighters — already don’t respect or consider him as a champion given how his first fight with Yan went. Pulling out of the rematch would unleash even more fury.
However, Sterling had to do what was right for his body and think long term. That is why in the end, he is pleased with how things have turned out.
“I told the guys [my roommates], ‘listen man, I don’t know what’s about to happen. I don’t think I can pull out of this fight because if I do, I’m going to get a lot of sh*t. I don’t know if the UFC would be happy.’ So I know it sucks, it’s a big fight…all these things I’m thinking about. …I’m like, ‘I think I’m just going to go in there and wing it.’
“They’re like, ‘that’s crazy, why would you ever want to put yourself in that position?’ I almost feel like I have no choice. … I feel like I’m gambling my quality of life all in one fight to try and make the fans happy when I know I’m doing the wrong thing. It was a really complex and difficult situation but all in all, I think I made the right decision for the longevity of my health.”
You can watch the full interview below: