If there’s one fighter who would appear to be a surefire fixture on UFC fight cards in New York, it would be Aljamain Sterling. Born in Uniondale, on Long Island, the reigning bantamweight champion built the foundation of his career in his hometown. He even rose through the UFC ranks at Long Island’s Serra-Longo fight team, which he still considers his home gym.
But for fans that take a glance at the “Funk Master”‘s record, they’ll find New York shockingly absent on his list of locations. In his recent conversation with Ariel Helwani at The MMA Hour, he revealed a serious health condition as the main reason why.
Aljamain Sterling’s health condition
As Sterling told Helwani, he found out about the problem after a CAT scan for his UFC debut.
“So, when I made my UFC debut, February 22, 2014—I’m a vet, man. UFC 170, the Ronda Rousey vs. Sara McMann card, I believe… I had to get CAT scanned. First time I’m ever getting a CAT scan, and they found two spots in my brain. It was like a millimeter or something like that,” Aljamain Sterling recalled.
“But it looked like there was trauma, they weren’t sure what it was. I forget the exact term—aneurysm or angioma, something like that. So, in order for me to be cleared, I would have to, like, go take it out of my head.
“So, I wasn’t sure if I had to get, like, drilled in my head to pull these things out or whatever.”
Aljamain Sterling says he was eventually given clearance to fight in all other states, except in New York.
“They monitored it, they allowed me to fight in Nevada. And they just had me monitored every six months, every year. And then, for a couple of years after, they realized the change, nothing is happening with that. They were, like, ‘OK, you’re safe. You’re not bleeding out, you’re not gonna die in the cage (knock on wood).’
“So things were good, and I was allowed to compete in Nevada and all the other states, except for New York.”
New York’s history with mixed martial arts
New York’s apparent refusal to clear Sterling is no surprise. Recent history will remind us of the state’s ardent stance against the sport, which led to a total ban in 1997. The move was part of a national backlash against ‘no hold’s barred fighting, including this now infamous statement from the late Senator John McCain, deeming mixed martial arts as “human cockfighting.”
New York was one of the only states to actually go so far as to make MMA illegal. Which mean that the UFC Had to go through years of political wrangling to lift the ban on MMA. That finally happened in 2016. It’s so far proved to have lucrative returns, as the state reportedly made $37.4 million in economic output after UFC 205, the company’s first event upon the lifting of the ban.
Sterling’s next fight is at UFC 288
As for Aljamain Sterling, his upcoming fight takes place in the neighboring state of New Jersey this Saturday at UFC 288. He will headline the card in a title defense against the returning former champion Henry Cejudo.
Co-headlining the card is a likely welterweight title eliminator between Gilbert Burns and Belal Muhammad. Also on the card is Jessica Andrade vs. Yan Xiaonan and Kron Gracie vs. Charles Jourdain. The PPV main card starts at 10 p.m. ET on ESPN+ PPV.
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