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Midnight Mania! Aljamain Sterling defends UFC 267 withdrawal, ‘My health is more important’

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UFC 259: Petr Yan v Aljamain Sterling Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

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Aljamain Sterling was not going to win over any fans by pulling out of his title rematch vs. Petr Yan, which was originally scheduled for UFC 267 on October 30. The heat has yet to really die down from Sterling’s title win via disqualification in the first place, as he’s received lots of criticism, both for “playing up” the illegal shot and for how he handled the immediate fallout.

LIVE! Watch UFC 295 PPV On ESPN+ Here!

TWO TITLES UP FOR GRABS! Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) makes its highly anticipated return to Madison Square Garden in New York City on Sat., Nov. 11, 2023, with a re-worked pay-per-view (PPV) main card. In the ESPN+-streamed main event, former 205-pound roost-ruler, Jiri Prochazka, will lock horns with ex-Middleweight kingpin, Alex Pereira, for the promotion’s vacant Light Heavyweight title. In UFC 295’s co-main event, top-ranked Heavyweight contenders, Sergei Pavlovich (No. 2) and Tom Aspinall (No. 4), will collide for the interim strap after division champion, Jon Jones, was injured with a torn pectoral muscle and forced to withdraw (video).

Don’t miss a single second of EPIC face-punching action!

It’s definitely bad optics for the champion.

Of course, it’s important to consider the backing reasons before jumping to conclusions. Sterling underwent surgery on his neck in April of this year, and his recovery estimate was listed between 12-18 months. Sterling aimed for a quick return, but given complications and the what was at risk, his doctor and UFC agreed that delaying his first defense was the best.

“I think that’s a pretty good, logical reason not to want to be paralyzed in the octagon,” Sterling explained on The MMA Hour (via MMAFighting). “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.”

In addition to the potential long term health effects of competing with a partially healed neck, Sterling did not want to disappoint with a subpar return to action.

“Obviously, getting punched in the face that many times in sparring, it can be a little deflating,” he said. “Mentally, it f*cks you up, especially if you’ve got a fight on the horizon. You wondering if you’re doing yourself a disservice by one, showing up and trying to perform for the fans, and not giving them another good show. For me to not give them two bad shows would just be on me at that point.

“I don’t want to do that. I want to make sure fans get their money’s worth, and they get the actual performance they deserve to see, to see who’s really the best, not a shell of the guy that we paid to see.”

At the moment, Cory Sandhagen will replace Sterling and challenge for the interim Bantamweight title vs. Yan. If Sterling is able to recover completely, he’s expected to face the winner. Neck injuries can be career-enders though, so whatever your opinion on his original fight with Yan, let’s hope “Funkmaster” can recover to full health before his return.


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Midnight Music: I checked out the new Injury Reserve album, By The Time I Get To Phoenix, which has been getting some hype online. It’s a majorly new direction for the rap group, glitchy and experimental with obvious influence from my beloved Death Grips. Thematically, it’s rather post-apocalyptic and dark, but the intensity of the raps never quite match that theme.

Sleep well Maniacs! More martial arts madness is always on the way.

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