Bantamweight champion Aljamain Sterling cancelled his title rematch with Petr Yan recently after revealing he needed more time to recover from issues relating to a neck surgery he had earlier in the year, but one of the other leading contenders for the belt, TJ Dillashaw has now speculated that perhaps the ‘Funk Master’ may never compete again.
“I don’t even know if Aljo’s ever going to come back to be honest,” Dillashaw said on The MMA Hour. “From what he had done, it’s kind of crazy. If I was him, I would have waited to get that done. My coaches, my strength and conditioning coach as well as my wrestling coach, sells the medical equipment that did his neck, don’t believe he’s ever going to come back.
“I think he’s just holding onto this belt as long as he can. I’ve had that feeling already so when he pulled out of the fight, I wasn’t surprised. I bet he’s dealing with nerve damage. I bet he’s dealing with a lot of stuff. You go get your neck cranked on with what he’s had done, it’s definitely not good. We’ll see. I could be completely wrong but I don’t know if he’s ever going to come back.”
As a former champion himself, Dillashaw knows of the rewards that come with the belt, and he feels Sterling made a mistake by putting his career on hold to get the surgery inthe hopes of fixing an issue he’d been bothered by since his college days.
“You’re on top of the world,” Dillashaw said of Sterling’s title win. “You’re champion. Yeah, you won it the way you did but now you’re going to start getting paid like a champion. You’re going to have these big fights. Take advantage of them while you can. Don’t go out and get this neck surgery.
“I understand he’s got the problem, he has the injuries. I was dealing with two blown out shoulders when I was the champion but I wasn’t willing to sit out for a year cause I had big paydays.”
However, despite Dillashaw’s take on things, Sterling himself has said he just needs more time to get back in shape and recover from the surgery, admitting that as things stand he’s not physically ready to return.
“As always, I like to share the truth and be transparent with my fan base that actually give a shit about fighters’ health,” Sterling wrote late last month. “Training has been going well but I’ve been struggling to get my body to push pass [two rounds] in sparring sessions. The fatigue that sets in and the cramping still lingers, which my surgeon said is due to the nerves still recovering from the long-term trauma, and surgery I just had. Nothing I can do about that, other than show up in another shell of myself and risk wasting the surgery and maybe getting severely hurt!!
“I originally wanted to fight in December but the plans were pushed up earlier. Unfortunately, my body isn’t agreeing with me and I asked for an extension and asked for Petr Yan to wait, so that I will be the first man in the UFC to beat his ass.”
With Sterling and Dillashaw both out of action for the time being, Petr Yan and Cory Sandhagen will fight for the interim bantamweight title at UFC 267 on October 30th.