Aljamain Sterling’s first title defense will have to be postponed a bit longer. The champ will be unable to make his scheduled fight date of October 30. Reports that Sterling has been forced out of his title fight rematch with Petr Yan began circulating over the weekend. According to Mike Heck of MMA Fighting, it is because of lingering issues and injury. Sterling has been recovering from neck surgery that he received following winning the title. He has spent the last six months working his way back.
Aljamain Sterling Heat
Sterling took a great deal of fire from fans and media following the nature of his title win. Sterling won the belt after being on the wrong side of an illegal strike by Yan in their last bout, back in March. Because of the illegal knee to a downed opponent, Yan was disqualified and Sterling walked away with the belt. Yan has been calling for a rematch ever since. The pair were planning on running it back in Abu Dhabi on October 30, however, now there may have to be another option.
Sterling has been on the mend since, March and therefore has not fought or defended the belt. The UFC has made interim titles for lesser reasons and with Sterling’s return timeline unknown that just might be what the UFC has in mind. Yan could easily stay on the UFC 267 card for an interim belt.
A possible candidate for fill-in could be Cory Sandhagen, he was on the fast track to a title shot before being beaten by TJ Dillashaw. Dillashaw of course would be a good option as well, but he is currently recovering from knee surgery. Yan released a video of himself (translated by RT Sport) saying he would face anyone for the interim title and called Sterling a “coward” for pulling out.
Yan is hoping to get a fill-in and stay on the card as the co-main event. The event is headlined by a light heavyweight title fight between Jan Blachowicz and Glover Teixeira.