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Li Jingliang confirms serious neck injury: ‘Spine surgery is not out of the question’

‘The Leech’ has released a statement following his removal from UFC 287 and it sounds like he’ll be out for a while recovering from a serious spinal injury.

UFC 267: Jingliang v Chimaev Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC

UFC 287 lost a banger of a fight when rising Chinese star Li Jingliang was forced to pull out of his bout against Michael Chiesa.

“The Leech” had been growing in popularity after taking a series of strange setbacks in stride leading up to his last fight at UFC 279. He never got to show off his awesome custom-tailored suit at the event’s press conference because it was canceled halfway through due to brawls. His high profile fight against Tony Ferguson was switched last minute after Ferguson was pulled into the main event against Diaz. Li would end up fighting Daniel Rodriguez instead, losing a controversial split decision many felt he should have won.

And now Jingliang will be out for a long time after suffering a serious neck injury in training.

“The Leech” detailed the injury in a statement released on Instagram.

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“As many of you already know, I injured my spine during fight camp and was forced to withdraw from my fight against Michael Chiesa at UFC 287,” Jingliang wrote. “The injury was an accumulated effect from all the rigorous training that I had put my body through in the past several months especially all the extra BJJ and wrestling work I put in to prepare for beating a submission artist.

“I was feeling extremely confident and was never so ready for a fight when the injury happened. I’d been waiting for too long for my moment since last year so I tried to power through it until I reached a point where the pain was worsening and expanding across my entire upper body; no amount of physical therapy or ibuprofen was able to fix the problem; and my fight preparation was completely stalled because of it.

“When the doctors explained to me how dangerous it would be for me to keep pushing my limits, I decided to wise up and take their advice to let my body heal.”

“This is a disappointing situation to say the least,” he continued. “As a professional fighter, my job is to fight, and to provide for my family with the honest work I put in with my bare hands. I love what I do, and because of it I understand the need to play the long game and be responsible for my own health. I chose fighting as my career - so decisions like this must not be based on ego, but on my long term commitment to the sport I love.”

Li is suffering from cervical radiculopathy, which is a narrowing of the spinal canal caused by a herniation of the intervertebral discs in his neck.

“I’m recovering and getting better, they will reevaluate my progress in the near future and decide on the next steps for my treatment plan. A spine surgery is not completely out of the question, but I hope to let it heal organically with the help from medical professionals so I can come back sooner.

As usual, Li took the news better than most.

“Life will always throw you curve balls, just keep fouling them off,” he concluded. “The right pitch will come, and when it does, I will be prepared to knock it out of the park. I will be back.”

Remember that will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC 287 fight card right here, starting with the early ESPN+ “Prelims” matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. ET, then the remaining undercard on ESPN/ESPN+ at 8 p.m. ET, before the PPV main card start time at 10 p.m. ET on ESPN+ PPV.

To check out the latest and greatest UFC 287: “Pereira vs. Adesanya 2” news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive event archive right here.

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