Aljo Sterling would have us believe his reluctance to face Petr Yan next month is him putting his health first. According to reports Sterling underwent surgery to repair damage from an old wrestling injury that was causing nerve pain.
Cory Sandhagen has been tapped as a replacement and he’ll be facing Yan for the interim title. Meanwhile Sterling told Helwani:
“I think that’s a pretty good, logical reason not to want to be paralyzed in the octagon,” he said. “I’m not looking to be the first person to win a belt by DQ and the first person in the octagon to be paralyzed in the cage.
“I’m sorry if I think my health is more important, and the longevity of me living in my body, my capsule, is more important than proving some stupid beef who’s the better fighter when I’m not even 100 percent yet.”
Sterling also shared a key moment when he realized he would have to pull out from the fight:
“A couple of weeks ago, maybe even when we spoke and I just knew usually around that time the endurance just wasn’t coming back to me. I was fatiguing doing pullups. Not that I couldn’t do pullups, I was doing pullups where I was doing static holds as part of my strength and conditioning. Which gives me the squeezing endurance that I had been having over my entire career since college wrestling … I could only hold it for like 15, 20 seconds. I was like, ‘yo something’s wrong, man.’ And this was after an off day.
“I would spar and I would do all these resistance exercises to be ready for the next sparring session. And then I go spar, after one round of throwing punches the next round I could barely keep my arms up.”
And yes Sterling’s future in fighting might be compromised. The one upside is that typical recovery from this type of operation is said to take between 12 to 18 months.
This development isn’t earning Sterling any fans considering the nature of how he got the belt to begin with – via Disqualification after Petr Yan threw and illegal knee.
Sterling’s defenders online have two arguments in their column – one Yan actually pulled out of the first match up for undisclosed reasons and secondly Sterling didn’t receive medical clearance to fight Yan.