Sterling hasn’t defended the bantamweight title since his win over TJ Dillashaw at UFC 280 last October. He was rumored to have a fight against Henry Cejudo in the works for later this year, but the fight hasn’t been formally announced by the promotion.
Skepticism regarding the Sterling/Cejudo fight ramped up when Sterling revealed the reason for the fight’s delay. He’s dealing with a torn bicep that he might need surgery for, and he’s expecting a prognosis later this week.
If Sterling needs surgery, the bantamweight title picture would be masked in uncertainty. Sean O’Malley holds the top contender spot as of the writing of this story, with Cejudo intent on reclaiming UFC gold for his return.
Sterling wouldn’t be against O’Malley, Cejudo, or other top contenders fighting for an interim belt.
Aljamain Sterling Provides Solution To Possible Upcoming Hiatus
During a recent interview on The MMA Hour, Sterling explained how the division should proceed if he needs surgery.
“If Henry wants to wait for me, he can wait,” Sterling said. “Or if he wants to take what he thinks is the easier fight right, he can fight Sean…an interim means both fighters get paid. They’re going to have a belt and they’re entitled to pay-per-view points… anyone on the main card should get pay-per-view points…so why not? That’s just how I look at it. I’m just trying to be fair.”
In a reaction to Sterling’s injury, O’Malley offered to face Cejudo in the coming months. The two shared a backstage altercation at UFC 276 and have teased a potential matchup ever since.
Sterling and Cejudo were originally linked to a fight at UFC 285, with Cejudo and his representatives claiming the fight was a “done deal”. Amidst his bicep injury, it’s uncertain if Sterling will be able to make it for the March 4th card.
If Sterling and his team decide to get surgery, he could be sidelined until the end of 2023. This could set the precedent for an interim title fight between Cejudo and O’Malley.
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