The timeline for Aljamain Sterling's first UFC bantamweight title defense just got a little bit longer. Sterling will undergo neck surgery on April 15 and expects to be kept on the sidelines for three to five months, according to an ESPN report.
Sterling is coming off one of the most unique title wins in UFC history, taking the belt from Petr Yan after Yan threw a blatant illegal knee in their championship fight, resulting in a disqualification victory for Sterling. Yan had taken over the fight at the time of the foul, leading to an almost certain rematch as Sterling's first title defense.
Assuming a speedy recovery from the surgery, Sterling believes he will return to the Octagon before the end of the year.
"They told me I will heal in three months, and can start doing cardio to get myself ready," Sterling said. "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 said he has been dealing with the neck issue for a decade and has been diagnosed with a herniated disk, stating the illegal knee contributed to the issue. He also said he is currently suffering from a shoulder issue and a partially torn left bicep.
Sterling is currently riding a six-fight winning streak and has not lost a fight since December 2017,