Robert Whittaker (20-4) was set to defend his UFC Middleweight title last night against Kelvin Gastelum (15-3-1) at UFC 234. This would have been a fight on home soil for the champion as he resides in Sydney, Australia and the event took place in Melbourne.
Whittaker participated in the weigh-ins and it looked like everything was ready to go until Whittaker was withdrawn suddenly due to medical reasons and the fight was removed from the card. This happened just a few hours before the match was schedule to take place.
After being admitted to hospital, Whittaker underwent dual surgery for an internal hernia of the intestine in addition to a twisted and collapsed bowel. Whittaker had been experiencing pain but did not want to cancel the fight but would have put himself at serious risk had he went ahead with the scheduled match.
A release to his social media by his management team relayed this to Whittaker’s fans;
“Rob will want to speak to his fans directly when he can. Rob is devastated that today’s fight will not go ahead. Up until 5 minutes before going into surgery, Rob was insisting he would fight, but advice was that a blow to the stomach could be fatal.”
Gastelum conducted interviews showing his disappointment and wishing Whittaker a speedy recovery. Some of those interviews included Gastelum holding a UFC Middleweight belt claiming her was the rightful title holder.
This caught the attention of fellow UFC fighter Conor McGregor, who was very critical of Gastelum’s actions. He posted his distaste on Twitter;
“It was absolutely ludicrous to even consider allowing him to compete. Let alone, now walk around the arena shaking our fans’ hands. Someone sort this this instant. And sterilize that belt. Immediately.”
UFC officials stated to media that Whittaker remains the titleholder.
The injury to Whittaker brings up a lot of questions in UFC’s middleweight division. Dana White had originally stated the winner of the match between Israel Adesanya and Anderson Silva would get a match for the title. Adesnya won the bout via unanimous decision.
Whittaker’s rehabilitation and recovery time will dictate what the next move for Dana White and the UFC will be. If he is going to be out for a long period of time, he may relinquish the belt setting up a potential match between Gastelum and Adesnya for the Middleweight title.
Another possibility would be a fight between those two for an interim Middleweight title with the winner facing Whittaker once he’s able to return for a unification match.
Other middleweight fighters to consider are Yoel Romero currently ranked as the #1 contender by UFC. He faces Paulo Costa on April 27, 2019. Jacare Souza also has a solid case for a title shot after defeating Chris Weidman at UFC 230, taking the fight on short notice.
Once Dana White has an update on Whittaker, expect him to start sorting out the mess in the UFC’s middleweight division.