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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

Welcome to Midnight Mania!

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.

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