Aljamain Sterling eyes early 2022 return after ‘life-changing’ neck surgery, confident he defends his belt: ‘I’ve made some serious gains’

Aljamain Sterling

Aljamain Sterling is happy he decided to have neck surgery, despite it meaning he couldn’t defend his bantamweight title at UFC 267.

Sterling and Yan were supposed to have their rematch in the co-main event in a highly-anticipated bout. However, after Sterling had neck surgery he wasn’t medically cleared to fight, but for the bantamweight champ, he’s still glad he got the surgery.

“I couldn’t be happier with the decision I made,” Sterling said while co-hosting The Fighter vs. The Writer podcast on MMAFighting. “To wake up, sleep, stand, and walk and not have constant radiating pain down my neck, it’s life-changing. The quality of life is so much higher. I can’t believe I didn’t do this sooner, if I’m being honest.”

With Sterling now nearly 100 percent, he says the plan is to fight the winner of the interim title fight between Petr Yan and Cory Sandhagen sometime early next year. Sterling also wants to be as active as possible next year.

“I think January, February, March at the latest,” Sterling explained. “I really don’t want do anything later than that. I’m getting older and I want to capitalize on my youth. I would love to try to get three title fights in a year. That means I would have to win the next one and then try to three within a calendar year, which is a big feat, but I think if I can keep my body healthy, which now that I had this procedure taken care of, I can potentially do that.

Aljamain Sterling, Cory Sandhagen, UFC 250, UFC rankings
Image via Aljamain Sterling on Instagram

“Cause when I was younger, I never really got injured. I get these injuries throughout my career as a fighter, and I just kind of prolonged them, just kind of ignored them, not doing the right thing and making sure they’re taken care of before I get to the fight. I just kind of tough it out,” Sterling said. “That’s the wrestler’s mentality. Eventually you run your body into the ground. So I’m doing the right things now so that I can keep the longevity and continue to compete for as long as I can and at the best optimal level I can.”

When he does return, Aljamain Sterling is confident in his skill set that he will be able to beat Yan in a rematch if the Russian wins on Saturday. He also says

“I’m in a good spot,” Sterling explained. “I do believe that I’ve made some serious gains. I just need more time. It’s not like Petr Yan, who pulled out of the [previous] fight for undisclosed reasons. It’s not cause he didn’t have his visa. The guy had his visa. It’s not cause he had COVID cause he didn’t have COVID. It’s not because of an injury, because I saw him working out and I messaged him on Instagram and he told me he really wants to fight with me — ‘Aljo, I really want to fight with you but not now, we have to fight later.’ OK, but why? But why are you pulling out of the fight? It’s different circumstances.”

Do you think Aljamain Sterling will beat Petr Yan or Cory Sandhagen in his next fight?

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