Aljamain Sterling, the current UFC bantamweight champion, has been banned from fighting in New York due to two adverse findings discovered during a brain scan. Despite this setback, Sterling is scheduled to defend his title against former two-weight champion Henry Cejudo in UFC 288’s main event in Newark, New Jersey this coming Saturday night.
According to Sterling, the New York State Athletic Commission refused to clear him to fight in his UFC debut in 2014 because two spots were discovered on his brain during his pre-fight medical exam. The spots, which measured about a millimetre in size, appeared to be indicative of some sort of head trauma, but doctors were unsure of their exact nature.
Sterling was required to undergo a CAT scan for the first time ever before his UFC debut at UFC 170 in February 2014, which took place on the same card as the Ronda Rousey vs. Sara McMann fight. Since he trains in New York City, he had to undergo his pre-fight medical examination in New York. Unfortunately, the New York Commission is known for its strict regulations, having only legalized MMA in the state in 2016.
As Sterling explained on The MMA Hour, the New York Commission refused to clear him to fight without the spots being removed, a procedure that would have required drilling into his head. “In order for me to be cleared, I would’ve had to go take it out of my head. So, I wasn’t sure if I needed to get like drilled in my head to pull these things out. So they monitored it, they allowed me to fight in Nevada,” he said.
The champion was ultimately cleared of any concerns regarding the spots on his brain a few years after they were first detected on the CAT scan. However, the New York Commission has continued to refuse to clear him to fight, despite the spots being deemed non-threatening.
Sterling’s UFC debut was ultimately held at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas, Nevada, instead of in New York. Since then, he has been allowed to compete in all states except New York.
Despite the New York ban, Sterling is looking to make his third defence of the bantamweight title against Cejudo, who retired from fighting two years ago.