‘I will be back’ — Li Jingliang explains spine injury that led to UFC 287 withdrawal 

The ‘Leech’ Li Jingliang says surgery is ‘not completely out of the question,’ but he hopes to avoid it to return to the Octagon soon.

By: Kristen King | 2 months ago
‘I will be back’ — Li Jingliang explains spine injury that led to UFC 287 withdrawal 
Li Jingliang weighs in for their UFC 279 bout during the official weigh-ins.

Li Jingliang has shared some details regarding the injury that led to his withdrawal from UFC 287 on Saturday. 

Ahead of his fight against Michael Chiesa, the ‘Leech’ said he suffered a spine injury caused by the ‘rigorous training’ he underwent in preparation for his opponent. After he started experiencing pain, Li visited a pair of doctors who advised him to sit out for four to six weeks.

How We Got to UFC 287

Li Jingliang took to Instagram to update fans on his condition

“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,” wrote Li in a post on Instagram. “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,” continued Li. “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.”

Li also shared that, though he is ‘recovering and getting better,’ there is still a chance he will require surgery if the spine injury does not heal on its own. Depending on the severity of the herniated discs, the 35-year-old could face an extended period of time away from the Octagon.

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

In his most recent appearance, Li lost a split decision to Daniel Rodriguez at UFC 279 this past September. 

Michael Chiesa hopes the UFC will re-book their fight in the future

As for Chiesa, despite talk of a potential bout against Joaquin Buckley, he was removed from UFC 287 altogether after a short-notice replacement for Li was not found. The ‘Maverick’ said on The MMA Hour with Ariel Helwani that he hoped to get that fight rescheduled.

“I want ‘Leech’ to recover,” said Chiesa. “Hopefully him and I can do it down the road. There’s one guy I kind of think we have in mind and I have in mind, too. I’d love a fight with Gunnar Nelson. I think he’s a tremendous competitor. I think styles make fights. I know he’s available and I think that he’s interested as well, so hopefully we can get something moving in that direction. I’d even be willing to go across the pond and fight him in England in July. I’ve never done the whole ‘go into enemy territory’ thing, so I think that’d be a fun challenge.”

Chiesa hasn’t competed inside the Octagon since a pair of back-to-back losses in 2021. The longtime Sikjitsu talent dropped a unanimous decision to Sean Brady at UFC Fight Night Vieira vs. Tate, just three months after a submission loss to American Top Team stalwart Vicente Luque in August of that year. In the meantime, the 35-year-old has become a fixture on UFC broadcasts as a desk analyst in studio.

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About the author
Kristen King
Kristen King

Kristen King is a writer for Bloody Elbow. She has covered combat sports since 2016, getting her start with outlets such as FanSided, MyMMANews and MMA-Prospects. She joined the BE team in 2020, covering a mix of news, events and injuries. In her time with BE, Kristen has created ‘Fright of the Night,’ a series that highlights some of the worst injuries in the sport.

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