UFC bantamweight champion Aljamain Sterling has been forced to withdraw from his upcoming rematch against former champion Petr Yan at UFC 267 on October 30.
MMA Fighting's Damon Martin and Mike Heck were the first to report the news of Sterling being unable to compete at the promotion's next pay-per-view event. Sterling is apparently dealing with lingering neck issues from an operation he had done in April to repair an old injury suffered during his years in collegiate wrestling. The UFC currently doesn't have a replacement opponent set to face Yan in Abu Dhabi at the end of next month but does hope to make an interim title bout still and according to the following tweet from MMA insider Ariel Helwani, Cory Sandhagen is the favorite to fill-in for Sterling.
Aljamain Sterling is out of the Oct. 30 title rematch vs. Petr Yan, per @MikeHeck_JR and @DamonMartin. Lingering neck issues.— Ariel Helwani (@arielhelwani) September 25, 2021
Plan is to do an interim title. Cory Sandhagen is the current frontrunner but nothing is done (remember, Dillashaw is coming off surgery.) Developing.
Sterling and Yan's last meeting at UFC 259 in March ended in a controversial fashion after Yan was disqualified after throwing an illegal knee in round four. Sterling became the first fighter in UFC history to win a title by disqualification because of the blow delivered from Yan.
"That's not the way I wanted to win."— UFC on BT Sport (@btsportufc) March 7, 2021
An emotional Aljamain Sterling after one of the most surreal endings to a fight in UFC history!
Watch the post-fight aftermath in full as Petr Yan is disqualified.#UFC259 pic.twitter.com/MBDIMf6UbT