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Sterling out for months due to neck surgery; Yan says ‘laughing stock’ should be stripped of belt

Petr Yan isn’t happy about Aljamain Sterling being out for a while.

The rematch between Aljamain Sterling and Petr Yan won’t be happening anytime soon. As the newly crowned UFC bantamweight champion announced, he will be having surgery to repair a nagging neck injury that will keep him out for months.

“They told me I will heal in three months, and can start doing cardio to get myself ready,” Sterling told ESPN. “They wouldn’t want to see me take a fight until they see everything has fused in my neck correctly. Five months would be ideal, if I heal up really quick. I’m excited. The faster I heal up, the faster I can fight. We’ll find out in the next three months, and get something on schedule.”

Sterling has a herniated disc, and will have surgery on April 15 to treat his C6-C7 vertebrae. He says he will be looking to return before the end of 2021.

Yan, who was lost his belt due to disqualification, isn’t happy about hearing the delay. He called for Sterling’s title to be stripped, and the pair had a back and forth on social media.

For his part, Sterling says he plans to be out for just around six months, and quickly dismissed any notions of having an interim belt necessary.

“I can’t see a reason for an interim title fight when Yan won the belt in July [2020], was scheduled to fight me in December, and then had to push it to March,” Sterling told ESPN. “He had enough time to heal from whatever fake injury he had. If he got that luxury, I should have the luxury of addressing an injury I’ve put off for years.”

Sterling’s goal is to obviously keep that belt — and that new champion’s contract — so it’s truly understandable that he would want to be as close to 100% as he goes into this pivotal bout in his career. I understand the desire to quickly see this rematch after the anticlimactic ending, but in reality, even without surgery, six months between title bouts is nothing outside of the ordinary.