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Aljamain Sterling wants to defend UFC title in early 2022 after undergoing ‘life-changing’ surgery

Aljamain Sterling vows to defend his bantamweight title by ‘January, February, March at the latest.’

Aljamain Sterling doesn’t regret pulling out of his title rematch with Petr Yan at UFC 267 because of the ‘life-changing’ surgery he underwent earlier this month.

Sterling says his quality of life has improved drastically since the surgery and that he expects to return to the octagon by early 2022 to defend his bantamweight strap against the winner of Yan vs. Sandhagen.

“I couldn’t be happier with the decision I made,” Sterling said while co-hosting The Fighter vs. The Writer podcast on MMA Fighting. “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.”

“I think January, February, March at the latest,” he added. “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.”

Many of Sterling’s critics don’t believe ‘FunkMaster’ is a worthy champion and believe Yan is the real bantamweight king. Sterling won the title in controversial fashion after Yan hit him with an illegal knee in the fourth round of their bantamweight title bout at UFC 259.

Sterling couldn’t care less about the critics and claims that he has ‘made some serious gains’ during his time off.

“I’m in a good spot,” he said. “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.”

Sterling is the only fighter in UFC history to win a championship via disqualification.