Petr Yan will have to wait for his rematch against UFC bantamweight champion Aljamain Sterling.

Sterling was diagnosed with a herniated disc, an issue he says has bothered him for around a decade, and will have an operation on his C6-C7 vertebrae later this week.

Given the seriousness of such surgery, Sterling told ESPN that recovery from such a procedure will push back a second fight with Yan.

“They told me I will heal in three months, and can start doing cardio to get myself ready,” Sterling said to Brett Okamoto. “They wouldn’t want to see me take a fight until they see everything has fused in my neck correctly. Five months would be ideal, if I heal up really quick. I’m excited. The faster I heal up, the faster I can fight. We’ll find out in the next three months, and get something on schedule.”

Sterling won the 135-pound title by disqualification at UFC 259 in March against Yan. “The Funk Master” started that contest, his first ever for a UFC championship, strongly before then-champion Yan began growing into the bout and looked on course for his first title defence before drilling Sterling with an illegal knee in the fourth round. Sterling was unable to continue and the referee deemed the strike an intentional foul, leading to him being awarded the victory.

Due to the contentious end to that first fight, bad blood has been brewing between Sterling and Yan and an immediate rematch being booked is a near certainty.

Serra-Longo Fight Team product Sterling is confident their second fight will materialise in 2021 and there is no need for an interim UFC title bout in the meantime, given how he has waited patiently for Yan to recover from injuries ahead of their first fight.

“I can’t see a reason for an interim title fight when Yan won the belt in July [2020], was scheduled to fight me in December, and then had to push it to March,” Sterling said. “He had enough time to heal from whatever fake injury he had. If he got that luxury, I should have the luxury of addressing an injury I’ve put off for years. Why would they rush an interim title for the sake of it?”